Jamie Monroe has always played it safe. That is, until her live-for-the-moment best friend, Tristan, jets off to Italy on a student exchange program. Left alone with her part-time mother and her disabled brother, Jamie discovers that she is quite capable of taking her own risks, starting with her best friend’s hotter-than-hot older brother, Sawyer. Sawyer and Tristan have been neighbors for years, but as Jamie grows closer to the family she thought she knew, she discovers some pretty big secrets.
As she sinks deeper into their web of pretense, she suspects that her best friend may not be on a safe exchange program at all. Jamie sets off to Europe on a class trip with plans to meet up with Tristan, but when Tristan stops all communication, suddenly no one seems trustworthy, least of all the one person she was starting to trust—Sawyer.
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Hi,” I say when I find Sawyer at his locker. My face is beaming like someone plugged me into a wall socket.
“Jamie.” He smiles back, but his eyes are rimmed with red like he's really tired. “Have you heard from my sister again?”
Not exactly the topic of conversation I'd hoped for. I nod. “I got another email. She got to Milan fine and is settling in.”
Sawyer pulls out his phone. He looks at me, then at his phone, then back at me again.
“She's...everything's okay with the exchange program?” he asks. His words are tentative.
“Tristan's fine, Sawyer. She says the schoolwork is going to be harder than expected because of not speaking Italian, but otherwise she's great. She loves Europe.” He looks at his phone again. I put my hand out. “Here, you want me to show you the email?”
He hands me his phone. It takes me a minute to figure out how to log in through his browser, but I hope I can put his mind at rest. My email is coming up on the screen when the first bell rings. I have English first class and my teacher's a real stickler about tardiness. I glance down the hall toward my locker.
“You go,” Sawyer says, his palm open for his phone. “I'll look it over and see you in class later. Okay?”
“I—” I’m not sure what to say. Tristan’s been talking about finding my dad in her emails. It’s our big secret and she’d been adamant about not sharing it with anybody. But I think I can trust Sawyer. And, after all, it is my secret to keep. If I’m making a mistake it’ll only hurt me. “Okay,” I say, finally, passing his phone back to him. Our fingers brush against each other, but we don’t have time to let them linger.
By the time I get to English, I'm thinking of another problem. Tristan hadn't wanted me to tell anyone about her modeling over there. I’ll have to tell Sawyer not to mention it.
When I dash into class later, Sawyer’s already seated in his usual seat with his head down. He's flipping through something on his phone, and again I think about signing him into my email earlier. Instead of feeling nervous, after having some time to think about it, trusting him makes me feel closer to him. Like we share our private emails with each other all the time.
“Hey.” I sit down beside him.
He finishes typing something, and then shoves his phone away before Mr. Echols catches sight of it. “Hey,” he says finally, smiling over at me. He still looks really tired.
“Everything okay?” I ask.
He blinks a few times, looking down, and I wonder if he isn't okay. Is something really wrong? “Do you...” he trails off and seems to rethink what he's saying. “Do you think with the program... do you think everything's okay about that? I don't know what's going on, but maybe...I mean, I think maybe Tristan’s over there trying to model.”
I swallow hard. This is the moment of truth, where I have to decide how much I can trust him.
But his pause is barely long enough for me to open my mouth. “I need to get on that class trip, Jamie. I need to stop my sister from doing anything stupid.”
A host of emotions rush through me. Fear, anger, betrayal.
“Wait, what?” I ask him. “You're going to try to get on the class trip so you can interfere with Tristan's dream?” Tristan’s told me how jealous he can be. How he’s done this before.
Sawyer looks over at me with wide eyes, like he can't believe I'm calling him out on it.
Mr. Echols interrupts us, starting class, but I'm too upset to pay attention to a single word he's saying.
Sawyer passes me a note halfway through class.
I’m seriously worried about my sister, Jamie. I have to tell you more about the program. Just hear me out. Please?
I keep my eyes from Sawyer for the rest of class. I'm sure he knows I'm angry, but he doesn't try to talk to me again, at least for now. I'm even angry at myself for getting so caught up in my feelings for him and not noticing all the things that Tristan's warned me about.
Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
Foreign Exchange is about a girl named Jamie, who sneaks away from her class trip in Europe to find her missing best friend.
What inspired you to write it?
I was inspired by a combination of the movie Life As We Know It and a desire to bring some of my performance and traveling background to life. While the end product came out nothing at all like the movie, I loved the idea of a responsible girl having to work with a sexy, untrustworthy playboy to solve a problem.
How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
When I think of traveling Europe, I think of trains. My husband and I traveled much of Europe by train several years ago, many times traveling through the nights. I loved the photo that was chosen for the cover, as it has the feeling of searching, and of being at the beginning of a very long track.
If it was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
I always have a really hard time with this question because I’m not all that in tune with current actors and actresses. But from those I do know, I would pick someone like Sophie Nelisse for the main character of Jamie. I think she’d do well with Jamie’s ability to speak multiple languages. I’d see someone like Odeya Rush as her beautiful fashion-model best friend, Tristan, and someone like Tyler Blackburn for sexy Sawyer.
What is it about this genre that appeals to you so much?
Honestly, I feel like the genre picked me, more than I chose it. The first novel I wrote was in the head of a thirty-year-old guy, and all my critique partners asked me, “Are you sure this shouldn’t be YA?” It took me until I started actually writing a young adult novel to see how perfect it felt to be in a teen’s voice.
What made you want to become an author?
Actually, I didn’t decide that I wanted to become an author either. It kind of happened by accident. I enjoyed writing and started to share my work with critique partners. My critique partners were all trying to get their work published, so I thought, “Why not give it a try.” It is kind of addictive to be able to share literary works, but I wouldn’t have known how much had I not been nudged to send my stuff out into the world.
How do you come up with character names?
I love coming up with character names, and keep an ongoing list in my phone. I pick up names everywhere, from my son’s judo classes, to clerk nametags at the grocery store. I quite often look the names up in baby name books to see what they mean as well.
Name one of your all-time favourite books?
This is a tough question. I have so many books I love. But if I had to pick one, I’d probably have to go with Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I love the voice, and the humor, and of course the hot romance.
Who, or what, inspires you?
I’m greatly inspired by young people who are pursuing their dreams and passions. That may be part of why I love writing for this age group so much.
Where is your favourite place to write?
I love to write at my kitchen table when no one else is home. I don’t get the house to myself all that often, so I also have a tiny office that doubles as a spare room. But creativity-wise, I love the kitchen table best.
What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
Hmm, this one’s tough, too, because usually the book is so much better than the movie! I’m going to go with Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, since I actually liked the movie better than the book in this case.
Name two of your favourite authors.
Wow, you’re great with the tough questions, huh? Really hard to narrow this down, but I’ll say that I would read anything by Stephanie Perkins or Gayle Forman.
If you could have a dinner party with any authors from any time in history, who would you choose and why?
I grew up as a reluctant reader and writer, and still haven’t read many of the classics. I’m sure most authors would say Jane Austen or Oscar Wilde, but I would likely pick people from our current times. I’d love to sit down with Jandy Nelson, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Kiersten White. Jandy – to figure out how her brain works; Laurie – to glean wisdom about the world; Kiersten – because I know we would laugh and laugh and laugh.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
In my spare time I dance and tour with a professional Polynesian dance troupe.
Who would play you in the movie about your life?
Probably Julia Louis-Dreyfus. People have always told me I look like her (must be the curly hair), plus she’s very funny, and I hope my life story would be more comedy than tragedy.
Tell us an interesting fact about where you live.
I live in a border town of Canada (just bordering Washington) and the post office in the US is actually closer to home for me than the one in Canada. Also, I live in the raspberry capital of Canada (and who doesn’t love raspberries?!)
What are your (writing) plans for the future?
I plan to keep drafting at least one new young adult novel per year. I have far more ideas stored up than I’ll ever be able to write. I also hope to keep putting out new nonfiction books to help writers as I learn more along my journey.
Tell us one thing that's on your bucket list.
Not to ever make a bucket list, but just to push myself to do things rather than putting them on a list!
Favourite myth / fairytale?
Beauty and the Beast. My wedding was actually themed after this.
Who did you want to be when you were a kid?
One of Charlie’s Angels. It looked like a fun life.
Denise Jaden’s novels have been shortlisted or received awards through the Romance Writers of America, Inspy, and SCBWI. The first draft of her debut novel, Losing Faith (Simon & Schuster), was written in 21 days during NaNoWriMo 2007 and she loves talking with writers and students alike about her Just-Get-To-The-End fast-drafting process. Jaden’s other young adult novels include Never Enough (Simon & Schuster) and Foreign Exchange (Evernight Teen, 2014).
Her first non-fiction book for writers, Writing with a Heavy Heart: Using Grief and Loss to Stretch Your Fiction, includes a variety of clear guidance and practical exercises to help writers get to the heart of their stories. Her second non-fiction book, Fast Fiction (New World Library) includes tips on constructing a story plan that works, as well as daily inspiration to keep writers writing, regardless of when the mood strikes.
Find out more about Denise and her books at www.DeniseJaden.com or on Twitter @denisejaden.
Giveaway: $25 Evernight Teen Gift Card
“Foreign Exchange is a fresh contemporary YA that will keep readers compulsively turning pages until the very end. Combining international intrigue with a steamy forbidden romance makes for a can’t miss read.”
- Eileen Cook Author of Year of Mistaken Discoveries.
“Great contemporary/mystery combo!”
Shanyn Day, Book Blogger, Chickloveslit.com
“A pitch perfect voice and delicious chemistry between the characters kept me turning those pages!”
Tara Kelly, author of Amplified and Encore
Foreign Exchange is heart pounding and suspenseful...the teenage dream of escaping the boredom of suburbia by travelling Europe and spending quality time with a hot guy shifts into a dangerous nightmare.
D.R. Graham, author of Rank and the Noir et Bleu MC series.