If Life Was Like a Song Nina Simmons' song would be "You Can't Always Eat What You Want." (Peanut allergies, ugh). But that's okay, because as her best friend Brianna always said, "We're All in This Together." Until the first day of the seventh grade, when Brianna dumps her to be BFFs with the popular new girl. Left all alone, Nina is forced to socialize with "her own kind"--banished to the peanut-free table with the other allergy outcasts. As a joke, she tells her new pals they should form a rock band called EpiPens. (Get it?) Apparently, allergy sufferers don't understand sarcasm, because the next thing Nina knows she's the lead drummer. Now Nina has to decide: adopt a picture-perfect pop personality to fit in with Bri and her new BFF or embrace her inner rocker and the spotlight. Well.. Call Me a Rock Star, Maybe.
My Year of Epic Rock is now published in the US by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, and thanks to Andrea for writing this guest post for me. Enjoy!
Why I wrote My Year of Epic Rock
by Andrea Pyros
I first started My Year of Epic Rock back when my daughter was a year old, when we’d just found out that she had multiple food allergies. After the initial shock (no milk? no eggs? no soy? no nuts? no nothing!?) I read everything I could get my hands on about allergies and how to manage them. At first, it all seemed pretty overwhelming and all I could think about was what she couldn’t eat.
But then I discovered a whole world of cookbooks written for food allergic people, and things suddenly felt a lot better. There were talented chefs out there making amazing food that my kid could eat. At the same time, I was hearing that it was during adolescence that kids took the most risks when it came to their food allergies. No surprise, right? It’s a risk-taking age in general. That made me wonder what my daughter, or a girl like her, might feel like dealing with food allergies as she was just starting to have a real taste of independence from her parents.
So I began writing my book and made my main character, Nina, a food allergic kid. Because I loved the idea of a mom who wrote allergy-friendly recipes, I made Nina’s mom a cookbook writer, and I started playing around from there.
As I was writing, my story became more about how hard it is to stand out and be different during middle school, and less about the specifics of food allergies. When I was Nina’s age, my mother got breast cancer. On top of feeling scared, angry and lonely, I was also really embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone at school to know. I’m not sure why! After all, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, but I didn’t want to be known as the kid with a sick mom. I wanted to be “normal” and to have a “normal” family (whatever that means!). So it felt important to me to explore ideas about standing out, feeling different, and learning to be okay with that.
I hope my book will resonate with people—allergic or otherwise—who’ve had those moments of wanting so badly to fit in, not being sure how to stand on their own but somehow, improbably, miraculously figuring it all out.