Talking doomsday community, difficult relationships with parents, a heartwarming YA love story plus an older sister-little sister relationship that will melt your heart and remind you of Lilo, Nani and David!
About the Book:
For fans of Jeff Zentner and Katie Henry comes a thrilling and funny debut about a teen raised in a doomsday community who plots her escape with the boy from the bunker next door.
“Always be ready for the worst day of your life.“
This is the mantra that Becca Aldaine has grown up with. Her family is part of a community of doomsday preppers, a neighborhood that prioritizes survivalist training over class trips or senior prom. They’re even arranging Becca’s marriage with Roy Kang, the only eligible boy in their community. Roy is a nice guy, but he’s so enthusiastic about prepping that Becca doesn’t have the heart to tell him she’s planning to leave as soon as she can earn a full ride to a college far, far away.
Then a devastating accident rocks Becca’s family and pushes the entire community, including Becca’s usually cynical little sister, deeper into the doomsday ideology. With her getaway plans thrown into jeopardy, the only person Becca can turn to is Roy, who reveals that he’s not nearly as clueless as he’s been pretending to be.
When Roy proposes they run away together, Becca will have to risk everything—including her heart—for a chance to hope for the best instead of planning for the worst.
Prepped by Bethany Mangle
Hands down, Prepped has the most unique premise I’ve read in a long while. At times frightening, at others absolutely endearing. I can’t wait to pick Bethany’s brains because I have a looooot of questions that need answering (please!).
Sophia Ismaa: Hi, Bethany. It’s wonderful to have you here, and I’m really excited to talk to you about your debut novel! Before we talk all things Prepped, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey?
Hi. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about Prepped! I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but Prepped is my first novel. I grew up loving books and wanting to become an author, so this is the culmination of years of work. Nowadays, if I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably spending time with my husband and my dog. I joke that I’m not interesting, but in all honesty, I like quiet days the most when I can just curl up with a book, go for a walk, or stay in my pajamas half the morning.
Sophia Ismaa: Your YA debut, Prepped, is hands down the most unique premise in YA that I’ve read. A doomsday community prepping for the apocalypse with survivalist training to rival Bear Grylls. How did you come up with such an amazing idea? Where did you draw inspiration from?
Thank you! That’s so nice of you to say. I love creating quirky environments and situations. I came up with this idea while watching an emergency drill at work. I started to wonder what it would be like to write a book about doomsday prepping where the prepping itself was the threat, not the actual apocalypse.
Sophia Ismaa: Do you think the doomsday community would feel vindicated by the pandemic? What measures would they have taken in this pandemic?
[I don’t really feel comfortable speculating about the pandemic.]
Sophia Ismaa: Becca shares a complicated relationship with her father. Why do you think it was difficult for Becca to reconcile her resentment towards the doomsday community and her love for her father? What makes Becca’s frustrations with her parents so relatable for so many around the globe?
Becca struggles with her feelings about both of her parents because she loves them even as they’re hurting her and disregarding what she needs to be happy. Logically, she wants to let go of that yearning for a healthy family dynamic, but she can’t help but care about her parents. I think that can be a relatable idea for many since we don’t all have perfect relationships with our relatives, whether that’s our parents, siblings, or extended family.
Sophia Ismaa: At times, the severity of the impact of living as part of a doomsday community is alleviated by Becca’s dark humour. What inspired you to take this approach?
Honestly, that’s a reflection of my personality. I use humor in my daily life as a bit of a relief valve. When I’m stressed or upset, being able to laugh or make others laugh lightens that burden even if it’s just for a moment.
Sophia Ismaa: Becca and Roy had me… goofishly smiling. I dare anyone to not like Roy either… seriously. What was your creative process writing Becca and Roy’s dynamic? Why was it important to write a love interest from an #ownvoices viewpoint?
I’ve read a ton of books where the protagonist meets someone for the first time and they fall in love. Or, they’re enemies and they later become lovers. I wanted to write a relationship in the middle where Roy and Becca have been dating for years, but Becca is totally ambivalent about Roy’s existence. She appreciates him on some level as a friend, but she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with him.
As far as #ownvoices, I like to explore my identities in different ways in my work. In Prepped, I wanted to write a Korean American love interest since I haven’t read many books with that representation. Since I’m adopted, I wanted there to be elements of Korean culture without emphasizing it as a central plot point.
Sophia Ismaa: One of my favourite parts about Prepped is Becca’s relationship with her little sister, Katie (together, Katie, Becca and Roy remind me of Lilo, Nani and David!). As an older sister, I related heavily. What are some things that were important to capture whilst exploring Becca’s love and affection for Katie?
I don’t have a little sister, but I wanted to show a softer side of Becca by having her feel responsible for a younger sibling. I also wanted to show how much we can be influenced by our loved ones and how they perceive the world.
Sophia Ismaa: What messages would you like readers to take away from Prepped?
I suppose the main message I’d like readers to take away is that sometimes you have to take the long route in following your dreams, but that doesn’t make them any less valid.
Sophia Ismaa: Prepped is a brilliant debut with, once again, such a fresh premise, and I’m excited to see what you will write in the future! Can you tell us a bit more about what you are working on next?
Thank you! My second book, All the Right Reasons, comes out in Spring 2022. It’s about a girl who gets cast as the lead alongside her mother on a dating show for single parents. When she accidentally starts falling for a contestant’s son, she realizes there’s a lot more to reality TV than she ever expected.
Sophia Ismaa: Before we go, I’d love to ask you which character in Prepped do you relate to most and which was the most challenging to write?
I probably relate the most to Becca since our personalities are very similar in most ways. She has a bit of a starker view on things than I do, but that’s to be expected given her upbringing. Roy was the most challenging character to write because of how much different he is at the end compared to the first time he appears on the page.
About the Author
Bethany Mangle writes young adult contemporary fiction because she refuses to ever grow up. She graduated from Hood College and George Washington University with degrees that have nothing to do with writing. Although she currently lives in Mississippi, Bethany has called many different states home. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, baking questionable cakes, or spoiling her dog.
Bethany’s short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including Maudlin House and The Citron Review.
Her debut novel, Prepped, will be published on February 23, 2021 by Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry Books.