Your new book is called Dream School. What’s it about?
It’s the sequel to my novel Girl, which was about a high school girl discovering the alternative music scene in the 1990s. Dream School is that same girl in college.
What kind of college is it?
It’s called Wellington. It’s based pretty closely on Wesleyan University, where I went.
What was Wesleyan like?
It’s a small Liberal Arts College, it’s like Amherst and Williams, but a little artsier, a little more eccentric.
What happens to her there?
At first she’s a little lost. Because she’s pretty middle class. She went to a public school and was into local bands and zines and thriftstores. The kids at Wellington are more affluent, a little snobbier than she is used to. But she adapts and finds some cool girl friends to hang out with. They make movies, and get into controversies. They end up becoming sort of famous at their school.
Is that what you did in college?
I was in bands. So yeah, it was similar.
Why should people read it?
Because it’s a really good book about college. The problem with most books about college is they try to show it in a very broad way. Like I am Charlotte Simmons, which is great, but it is more about a typical person. My book shows what college is like for hipsters, for lack of a better word. It’s like This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book about Princeton. It shows what the smart people are like, not sorority girls. So it’s good in that way.
You also have a new Young Adult book called Recovery Road. What’s that about?
A high school girl who’s an alcoholic.
What happens to her?
She is a total party girl and is constantly getting into trouble. So her parents send her to rehab. She doesn’t take it very seriously. Then she falls in love with this young guy there, a sort of cool skateboarder type guy. So that gives her some motivation to stay clean and sober. But things get complicated. It’s very realistic about what happens to people like that. It’s kind of brutal but in the end it has a message of hope. It’s also very funny.
How can a story like that be funny?
Because among people who have destroyed their lives with addiction, there is often a great sense of gallows humor. People like this character, Madeline, they are balls-out people. They are reckless and not afraid to say what they think. They retain that quality, even after they are recovered. So it is pretty entertaining hanging out with this her, as a reader.