Review | Proud of Me and Q+A with Sarah Hagger-Holt

Proud of Me

by Sarah Hagger-Holt

MG Contemporary, LGBTQ

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Becky and Josh are almost-twins, with two mums and the same anonymous donor dad.

Josh can’t wait until he’s eighteen, the legal age when he can finally contact his father, and he’ll do anything to find out more ­­­- even if it involves lying.

Becky can’t stop thinking about her new friend, Carli. Could her feelings for Carli be a sign of something more?

Becky and Josh both want their parents to be proud of them…but right now, they’re struggling to even accept themselves.

Thanks to the publisher and author for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I feel like every time I read or review a MG book, I always end up saying the same thing – I don’t read MG that often. But when I heard about this, I absolutely couldn’t turn down the chance to review a book that sounded so lovely and wholesome. And disappointed I was not, because Proud of Me really knocked it out of the park and really delivered a book that makes myself proud that the children of this generation will be able to read a book like this – so important, comforting and rich.

Proud of Me is the heartwarming story of “almost” twins Becky and Josh – who share the same biological dad but have different mums. But of course that doesn’t make them any less of a family. But in their family, they are keeping secrets. Becky is beginning to have feelings for her new friend Carli, and Josh is getting more and more impatient to find out more about their anonymous donor dad. But as well as know, secrets can only stay secrets for so long…

I really enjoyed this book! I thought that Hagger-Holt did an excellent job of the dialogue, it perfectly captured both of our main characters and made each of their voices so distinct! The story was so nice to follow and the pace was great – I kept on reading because I was really invested in both of their stories, and despite their little flaws, they were both such likeable main characters!

I think this book will be the starter of some really important conversations regarding parenthood and what biological relations actually mean. Because at the end of the day, family to you is whomever you choose and blood doesn’t mean anything. It was so amazing to see an unconventional family at the centre of this story, and for all the younger readers who are going to pick up this book, it’s going to do them and their imagination a world of good.

Proud of Me is heartwarming and wholesome, but be prepared for it to tug on your heartstrings. A moving, emotional read, I really loved this book!

Hi Sarah!

Congratulations on your newest publication – Proud of Me! I can already see the good this book is going to do in the world and how many people are going to adore it!

As a writer myself and aspiring author, I thought it would be fun to ask you some questions more so on the writing side of your career! So, onto the questions!

Q) This is your second novel for children. What draws you to writing for kids rather than teens or adults?

A combination of things. First of all, remembering how important books were to me when I was a child has made me want to try to create the same magic for someone else.

Secondly, the character that sparked off Nothing Ever Happens Here – Izzy – just happened to be twelve, so I wrote for pre-teens because it seemed most likely that children of a similar age would be interested in her story.

And finally, I have two children, aged 10 and 12, and I read a lot of the same books as they do. These books have shown me how much you do within a middle grade novel – there’s scope to write just as interesting characters and complex situations as there would be if I wrote for teens or adults.

Q) What is your ideal writing day like?

My ideal writing day would start with a swim or a walk by myself. This helps me sift through ideas and try out dialogue in my head. It’s also a great way to work through any problem with the writing – better than staring at a blank screen! Then, all I need to be set for the day is a large cup of coffee, some cake that my daughter has made, an empty house, and a laptop on the table overlooking the garden.

Q) If you could make a character from Proud of Me meet a character from Nothing Ever Happens Here, who would these characters be?

Whoah, I love this question, even if it blows my mind a little bit. I think Archie from Proud of Me and Grace from Nothing Ever Happens Here would be an amazing combination, bringing sunshine into everyone’s lives. I’d also love it if Izzy and Sam from Nothing Ever Happens Here could join the school Pride group in Proud of Me – I think they’d find it so helpful to get to know other kids with LGBTQ+ families.

Q) What’s the biggest joy of writing for you?

I love writing dialogue. It’s such fun when the characters find their own voices. It’s also immensely satisfying when you find a neat way to resolve something which isn’t working or a part of the plot that isn’t making sense. That’s true inspiration – and sometimes you have to wait a long time for it to come.

Q) You do a lot of research for your books – in what way do you think this is important and rewarding for both you as a writer and for the story itself?

It’s not like I do all the research and then I start writing. The two processes go hand in hand. Research for me usually means finding people with similar lived experiences to my characters and talking with them about it. There are plenty of videos and articles to turn to online to fill in any gaps. I think doing the research pays off because, hopefully, it reduces the risk of writing stereotypical characters and gives the story an extra layer of authenticity.

Q) Do you listen to music when you write? If so what sounds inspired this novel?

Never, I just can’t do it. It totally distracts me. Also, I like to stop and read aloud bits that I’m writing as I go along, or even talk to myself about what I’m going to do next, which doesn’t really work with a musical background.

Q) Who was one of your favourite characters to write?

Aaargh, I love them all. But if I had to choose… Proud of Me has two narrators – Becky and Josh – and the chapters alternate between their narrative voices. It was great to have the chance to get right inside the heads and motivations of two different characters as they experienced many of the same events. The challenge was to keep their voices distinct, but still sounding like they came from the same family. The editing process really helped me go back and work through this.

Q) And finally, what piece/pieces of advice do you have for those reading who are aspiring authors themselves?

Read lots – everyone says it, but it’s true.

Also, when you write, write in your own voice, don’t try and copy anyone else. I don’t think there will ever be too many stories. We need stories from a diverse range of voices, experiences and interests. That includes your stories in your voice. It amazes me how distinct different writers’ voices turn out to be. We need them all.

And finally, just get the words down. They don’t have to be perfect first time, in fact, they definitely won’t be. But getting them out of your head and on to page is the first step.

Good luck!

Thank you so much Sarah for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful blog tour and answering my questions! Proud of Me is out now and I can’t recommend it enough!