2020 Client Projects

I am so thrilled to be sharing my 2020 client books line up! There is something for everyone here: mystery, suspense, memoir, non fiction, YA. Please add to your TBR pile, Goodreads page, or pre-order now.

BEHIND EVERY LIE Christina McDonald (February 4th 2020)

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“Behind Every Lie is a deep, suspenseful novel packed with family secrets. Christina McDonald has a true gift for creating characters that are so well-developed, it feels like you know them. An outstanding achievement!”

— Samantha Downing, author of the #1 International Bestseller My Lovely Wife

“In Behind Every Lie, Christina McDonald brilliantly intertwines page-turning suspense with jaw-dropping family secrets. An emotionally-charged domestic thriller that is sure to please!”

— Wendy Walker, national bestselling author of The Night Before

“A clever, tense, and absorbing novel–this tale of family secrets had me racing towards the final pages.”

— Emma Rous, bestselling author of The Au Pair

“Christina McDonald follows up her smashing debut The Night Olivia Fell with another winner. McDonald starts with a bang, then builds the action steadily, a gradual unfolding of secrets and lies that will have you constantly switching alliances. Read it like I did, in one sitting and straight through to the end, because you won’t want to put this one down.”

— Kimberly Belle, internationally bestselling author of Dear Wife

“Christina McDonald’s Behind Every Lie is a layered, gut-wrenching domestic thriller that explores the complexities of mothers and daughters and the secrets families keep. Smart and intense, and with more than enough twists to give you whiplash, McDonald’s beautiful, emotional storytelling will leave you breathless. I don’t think I exhaled until the end.”

— Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts, ITW Award winner for Best Novel

“Christina McDonald’s Behind Every Lie is a cleverly plotted and emotionally charged page-turner about memory, trusting yourself, grieving, and letting go. Family secrets run deep in this compelling exploration of how far a mother will go to protect her child. Full of twists and turns, this is domestic suspense at its best!”

— Karen Katchur, bestselling author of River Bodies

“In Behind Every Lie, a lightning strike survivor discovers that memories are fallible, identities are fungible, and she can’t trust anyone—including herself. With nuanced and dubiously trustworthy characters, dual timelines revealing decades of secrets, and a tension-packed plot, Christina McDonald has crafted an engrossing and utterly addictive thriller. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough!”

— Kathleen Barber, author of Truth Be Told

“Addictive and emotionally resonant, Behind Every Lie is a twisty, fast-paced thriller with secrets nestled inside secrets. Nothing is as it seems in this story exploring the sorrow and strength of brokenness, and with complex characters and a relentlessly compelling plot, you’ll be unable to stop reading it—or forget it once you do.”

— Megan Collins, author of The Winter Sister

“[An] intriguing suspense novel… McDonald weaves together Eva and Kat’s narratives, which span past and present, to create a compulsively readable and fast-paced yarn that explores the lingering effects of trauma and abuse as well as the complex bonds between mothers and daughters. Readers who enjoy character-driven thrillers will be pleased.”

— Publishers Weekly

“Told in alternating narratives from Eva’s traumatic life and her mother’s mysterious past, the story twists and turns with one shocking revelation after another until it threatens to careen out of control. But behind every lie there is always a reason, and there is a satisfying ending once everyone’s hand is played out.”

— Booklist

“Behind Every Lie is a page-turner and an entertaining read. Many readers will enjoy Eva’s breathless race of discovery and journey of survival.”

— Bookreporter

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell—an “emotionally charged mystery” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author)comes a thrilling new suspense novel about the insidious nature of family secrets…and their deadly potential.

If you can’t remember it, how do you prove you didn’t do it?

Eva Hansen wakes in the hospital after being struck by lightning and discovers her mother, Kat, has been murdered. Eva was found unconscious down the street. She can’t remember what happened but the police are highly suspicious of her.

Determined to clear her name, Eva heads from Seattle to London—Kat’s former home—for answers. But as she unravels her mother’s carefully held secrets, Eva soon realizes that someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. And with violent memories beginning to emerge, Eva doesn’t know who to trust. Least of all herself.

Told in alternating perspectives from Eva’s search for answers and Kat’s mysterious past, Christina McDonald has crafted another “complex, emotionally intense” (Publishers Weekly) domestic thriller. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell’s I Found You and Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of HerBehind Every Lie explores the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships, family trauma, and the danger behind long-held secrets.

Order at: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | Goodreads

 

WE CAME HERE TO FORGET by Andrea Dunlop Paperback (April 21, 2020)

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“Searing, gripping…Dunlop has crafted a complicated story of sisterhood unlike any told before.”
— Taylor Jenkins Reid, bestselling author of Daisy Jones and the Six

“Dunlop’s globe-trotting story of two sisters driven apart by a devastating event is a propulsive whirlwind of secrets, passion, betrayal, exotic locations — and hope. It’s as timely as it is riveting.”
— J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest

“I wish Andrea Dunlop’s We Came Here to Forget could go on forever. I was riveted by the central story of an overachieving athlete who is finding her way in a world without clocks, without concrete goals. Andrea is a talented, intuitive leader and storyteller, revealing details at just the right moment over and over again. There is so much genuine emotion and tension throughout the book . . . a lot to think about in here, and oh yes—a lot of dancing in paradise (and in hell) too.”
— Caroline Kepnes, author of YOU

“Andrea Dunlop’s novels were made for book clubs. This one is a gripping story of family secrets and dangerous ambition that follows Katie Cleary, an Olympic hopeful who tries to live under a new identity when her career is ruined after dark truths about her sister come to light.”
— Bustle

“As fast-paced as a downhill ski run, and as magical and sensuous as tango, We Came Here to Forget is about the drive to escape the trauma of the past—and the folly of that desire.”
— Edan Lepucki, bestselling author of CALIFORNIA and WOMAN NO. 17

From the author of She Regrets Nothing, which BuzzFeed called a “sharp, glittering story of wealth, family, and fate,” a vivid novel about a young Olympic skier who loses everything and reinvents herself in Buenos Aires, where she meets a man keeping dark secrets of his own.

Katie Cleary has always known exactly what she wants: to be the best skier in the world. As a teenager, she leaves her home to live and train full time with her two best friends, brothers Luke and Blair. Their wealthy father hires the best coaches money can buy and after years of training, the three friends are the USA’s best shot at bringing home Olympic gold.

But as the upward trajectory of Katie’s elite skiing career nears its zenith, a terrifying truth about her sister becomes impossible to ignore—one that will lay ruin not only to Katie’s career but to her family and her relationship with Luke and Blair.

With her life shattered and nothing left to lose, Katie flees the snowy mountainsides of home for Buenos Aires. There, she reinvents herself and meets a colorful group of ex-pats and the alluring, charismatic Gianluca Fortunado, a tango teacher with secrets of his own. This beautiful city, with its dark history and wild promise, seems like the perfect refuge, but can she really outrun her demons?

“Searing, gripping…a complicated story of sisterhood unlike any told before” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Daisy Jones & The Six), We Came Here to Forget explores what it means to dream, to desire, to achieve—and what’s left behind after it all disappears.

Order at: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | Goodreads

 

SUMMER OF LOVE AND MISFORTUNE by Lindsay Wong (May 5, 2020)

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Anna and the French Kiss meets Crazy Rich Asians in this hilarious, quirky novel about a Chinese-American teen who is thrust into the decadent world of Beijing high society when she is sent away to spend the summer in China.

Iris Wang is having a bit of a rough start to her summer. In an attempt to snap her out of her funk, Iris’s parents send her away to visit family in Beijing, with the hopes that Iris will “reconnect with her culture” and “find herself.” Iris resents her parents’ high-handedness, but even she admits that this might be a good opportunity to hit the reset button.

Iris expects to eat a few dumplings, meet some of her family, and visit a tourist hotspot or two. What she doesn’t expect is to meet a handsome Mandarin-language tutor named Frank and to be swept up in the ridiculous, opulent world of Beijing’s wealthy elite, leading her to unexpected and extraordinary discoveries about her family, her future, and herself.

Order at: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | Goodreads

 

SPRING GIRLS by Karen Katchur (June 16, 2020)

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She’s the only one who survived…and the only one who can help find the killer.

Another spring, another dead girl pulled from a lake in the Appalachian foothills: the latest victim in a series of murders with few leads. But Detective Geena Brassard and her partner, Parker Reed, finally land a break when they receive a tip about a previously unknown survivor of the so-called Spring Strangler.

The survivor’s reluctant to help with the case for reasons that aren’t all clear. Even so, Geena uncovers a connective thread between the victims, and recently discovered DNA brings her closer to the killer’s identity. But Geena knows the survivor has the most to offer the investigation–if also the most to lose.

Geena is torn between securing the surviving victim’s help and protecting her from further danger. One thing is certain: Geena and Parker must find answers before the killer claims another life–or returns to finish off the one who got away.

Order at: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | Goodreads

 

WE CAME HERE TO SHINE by Susie Orman Schnall (June 16, 2020)

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“On the thrilling backdrop of the 1939 World’s Fair, Schnall once again delivers a story both captivating and timely, as two women must struggle to make their way in a male-dominated world in this beautiful novel of friendship and ambition.” – Jennifer S. Brown, bestselling author of Modern Girls

“Set at the wondrous 1939 World’s Fair, Orman Schnall’s latest bursts like a technicolor movie right off the page, as her two heroines battle for their rights in what’s very much a man’s world, forging a remarkable bond in the process. An ode to female friendship that pulses with momentum and left me breathless.”
–Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Chelsea Girls

We Came Here to Shine is an exceptional work of historical fiction, illuminating the challenges of women in a world that wants to control them. There are conflicts and challenges at every turn, leaving the reader wondering how the characters can emerge from it all. Yet the skillful storytelling of Schnall succeeds at creating an ending that is both surprising and believable. Pick this one up if you enjoy books with friendship, love, struggle, triumph, and a bit of Hollywood in New York.” – Camille Di Maio, Bestselling author of The Memory of Us

We Came Here to Shine is a perfectly crafted and dynamic tale of female ambition, professional rivalry, and family secrets, all set against the sensational backdrop of the 1939 New York World’s Fair. An unlikely friendship between a struggling Hollywood starlet and a budding female journalist becomes the extraordinary centerpiece of this beautifully-told story, which reveals not only the glamorous and optimistic side of the Fair, but the sordid reality of what goes on behind the scenes. With masterful attention to historical detail, Susie Orman Schnall has gifted us with a remarkable novel about the challenges women face and the courage they must summon in order to lead the lives they deserve.” – Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

 

Set during the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two intrepid young women—an aspiring journalist and a down-on-her-luck actress—form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of endless possibility, stand down adversity, and find out what they are truly made of during the glorious summer of spectacle and opportunity…

“An ode to female friendship that pulses with momentum and left me breathless.” —Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Chelsea Girls

“A remarkable novel about the challenges women face and the courage they must summon in order to lead the lives they deserve.” —Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

Vivi Holden is closer than she’s ever been to living her dream as a lead actress in sun-dappled L.A., but an unfair turn of events sends her back to New York, a place she worked so hard to escape from. She has one last chance to get back to Hollywood—by performing well as the star of the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair. Everything seems to be working against her, but her summer in New York will lead to her biggest opportunity to find her own way, on her own terms…

Maxine Roth wants nothing more than to be a serious journalist at the iconic New York Times, but her professor has other plans. Instead, she’s landed a post at the pop-up publication dedicated to covering the World’s Fair—and even then, her big ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts. Max didn’t work this hard to be the only—and an unheard one at that—woman in the room.

When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that shows them to be the daring, bold women they are, and one that teaches them to never stop holding on to what matters most, in the most meaningful summer of their lives.

Order at: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | Goodreads

 

ONE HUNDRED DOGS AND COUNTING by Cara Sue Achterberg (July 7, 2020)

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“Saddened by her emptying nest, Cara Sue Achterberg started fostering dogs—dozens of them. Here she shares the journey (and some super cute photos).”
— People (Praise for ANOTHER GOOD DOG)

“Heartwarming and humorous. Achterberg fills her readers with the warmth of hope and light of inspiration, which will likely galvanize a new wave of fosters.”
— Shelf Awareness (Praise for ANOTHER GOOD DOG)

“That’s where people like Cara Sue Achterberg come into the picture. Another Good Dog has to be the ‘feel good’ book of the year. The perfect gift.”
— Best Friends (Praise for ANOTHER GOOD DOG)

“A love letter not only to the dogs she fostered, but to all the dogs she hopes to save in the future.”
— Kim Kavin, award-winning author of The Dog Merchants (Praise for ANOTHER GOOD DOG)

“Big hearted, inspiring and passionate. Lucky are the dogs who pass through Achterberg’s arms on their way to the lives they so richly deserve. Honest and engaging.”
— Peter Zheutlin, New York Times bestselling author of THE DOG WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN

“Achterberg has in fact written another good book about dogs, but even more so she has produced a manifesto on how to change the world: through single acts of caring and compassion stacked one on top of another without end.”
— Jim Gorant, New York Times bestselling author of THE LOST DOGS

A challenging foster dog inspires an experienced foster mama to explore where the endless stream of unwanted dogs is coming from—and how things could change.

After nearly a year struggling to find a home for a particular foster dog, Cara begins to wonder how the story ends—when will all the dogs be saved? Even after the one-hundredth foster dog passes through Cara’s home, the stream of homeless dogs appears endless.  Seized by the need to act, Cara grabs her best friend, fills a van with donations, and heads south to discover what is really happening in the rural shelters where her foster dogs originate.

What she discovers will break her heart and compel her to share the story of heroes and villains and plenty of good dogs, in the hope of changing this world.

From North Carolina where pit bulls fill the shelters and heart-worm rages to Tennessee where dogs are left forgotten in pounds and on to Alabama where unlikely heroes fight in a state that has largely forsaken its responsibilities to its animals, Cara meets the people working on the front lines in this national crisis of unwanted animals. The dogs, the people and their inspiring stories draw her south again and again in search of answers and maybe a dog of her own.

One Hundred Dogs and Counting will introduce the reader to many wonderful dogs—from sweet Oreo to quirky Flannery—but also to inspirational people sacrificing personal lives and fortunes to save deserving animals.

Join Cara on the rescue road as she follows her heart into the places where too many dogs are forgotten and discovers glimmers of hope that the day is coming when every dog will have a home.

Order at: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | Goodreads

 

LAUNCHING WHILE FEMALE: SMASHING THE SYSTEM THAT HOLDS WOMEN BACK by Susanne Althoff (October 27, 2020)

A rallying cry that exposes the obstacles that women and non-binary entrepreneurs face in the business world and a roadmap for a more inclusive and economically successful future

Journalist and professor Susanne Althoff exposes the ways in which the current start-up paradigm was engineered by and for white men, and the ways in which women, non-binary, and trans folks—especially those who are non-white—face impossible barriers to landing funding from venture capitalists to make their companies viable. Through interviews with over 100 founders of small start-ups, Althoff paints a picture of a systemically rigged start-up culture. She tackles the gendered perceptions of innovation and who is allowed to play; for example, why women are called “mompreneurs” rather than business women and why only 18 Black women founders of companies have been able to break the $1 million threshold for funding … ever.

Althoff provides a way forward, providing proof that companies started by women are a boon to society and the economy, and offering advice for non-male people starting their own companies.

Order at: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble | Chapters Indigo | Goodreads

 

Why You’re Starting Your Novel in the Wrong Place

Does your book start at the most interesting point in your character’s life? It should. 

The number one problem I see with sample material, and even client material sometimes, is that the book doesn’t start in the right place. If you are starting with the beginning of the day (waking up or eating breakfast) I don’t trust it’s starting in the right place. If you take 50 pages to introduce the conflict there is no way you’re starting in the right place.

HOW TO START YOUR NOVEL IN THE RIGHT PLACE:

  1. At the end, go back and rewrite your beginning. There is no way by the end of your novel you should have the same opening when you started the draft. Characters change, plot trajectories change. You don’t know what your novel is going to fully become until it’s over. So why keep the same opening? Revise to make sure it is the proper opening for the novel it became.
  2. We don’t need a car crash, but we do need a secret. “Starting with action” is often misconstrued as starting with a bomb going off. For some genres that works, for many it doesn’t and shouldn’t! What we do need to start with is knowing that your character has a secret. Action can be many things, but no matter what we need to know something big is coming. We can’t be reading about a normal day in your characters’ lives.
  3. Are you introducing too many people? We should meet the main character on page one and maybe one or two others–but that is it. Introducing too many characters is very confusing to the reader. We don’t know who’s who yet. And we don’t know who to care about. Establishing a bond between main character and reader starts on page one.
  4. Alternately, information dumping won’t win us over either. Want us to know everything right off the bat? Guess what…we don’t want to know everything on page one. Or else what are we reading about?! Give the reader some credit and let them connect the dots. Trusting that your reader is smart will win them over too.
  5. How do we know this is a novel? Something happens. As I said at the top: your book should start at the most interesting point in your character’s life. Or else why are we reading about them? What is the moment when everything changes? Why? And why does the reader care to find out what happened? These seem like simple questions but they’re the crux of getting readers’ invested in your characters from the moment we meet them.

Q: What do you worry about with your beginnings?

3 Biggest Relationship Writing Mistakes

LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_TypewriterMost fiction has a romance of some sort. Historical, literary, suspense–most plots, even if they’re not a romance novel, have a romantic subplot at the minimum. And actually, most of this advice can be used for all sort of relationships between characters (mother/daughter, best friends, lovers).

The interaction between your characters is what brings a book to life. No novel is written without dialogue, secrets, plot and emotions that cross between the characters in your novels. So how does this all come to life and become real for the reader?

3 BIGGEST RELATIONSHIP WRITING MISTAKES:

1. Coincidence. It’s not that easy.

There is nothing more transparent than characters who come together serendipitously. It’s easy for a writer to have characters bump into each other on the street. What’s hard is to plot interaction naturally for each character’s own motivations and goals separate from their relationship to each other. Comb your writing for things that seem too easy; chances are, the reader can see right through it.

2. Can they just get in a room together?

The opposite of coincidence is a similar problem. If your relationship issue could be solved by two people simply being in the same room and talking it out–it’s not plotted deeply enough. The characters have to be up against something external and bigger than themselves. If they themselves are the limitation to their happiness or coupling then the reader will get frustrated very easily.

3. Technology. The curse of modern relationship writing. 

I know writers, this one isn’t easy. But, setting your novel in the 90s isn’t the answer either! (The reason for writing a historical novel has to be more than just avoiding the cell phone or internet.) Even having a characters’ cell phone drained of battery is hard because of the modern conveniences of car charges and backup chargers. No reader will believe this unless it’s a character quirk and even then we’re all frustrated by our own friends who don’t travel with a fully charged phone! Plus, there is wifi everywhere we go, so of course in a modern novel there will be the same amenities for your character. Therefore, you can’t make your plot too simple or else we’re back at Problem 2 (i.e. why can’t they just talk?). If you have to keep them away with a forgotten cell phone or dead battery then the see above (i.e. external conflict!).

Q: Which one of these is the hardest for you?

Things I Wish I Knew: 5 Things To Know When Writing Diverse Characters by Dahlia Adler

You might know Dahlia Adler as an author, a blogger, a Twitter enthusiast (follow her)–or all three! But I know her as an intelligent advocate of marginalized voices and talented writer of diverse stories. She’s our next expert in the “Things I Wish I Knew” series.

Writing diverse characters is a life skill for a writer. It starts with the complex question: how does any writer write about things that they haven’t lived? Writing a diverse cast of characters has always been important, but with the (much needed) push of the We Need Diverse Books campaign among other things I want it to be clear that diversity is not a trend. Diversity reflects the way we live our lives in the real world–we’re all different and everyone deserves to have themselves reflected in what they read.

For advice on writing a diverse cast, please hear from the one and only Dahlia Adler…

5 Things To Know When Writing Diverse Characters

1. Diversity is not a monolith. We hear that phrase a lot, but what does it mean, practically, when writing a character? It means throwing out your preconceived notions of “A character being Black/Latina/gay/blind/Muslim/Jewish etc. means This.” The one thing being marginalized means across the board is that the characters have likely faced microaggressions in their lives, and been made conscious of ways in which they are different from the most privileged. It does not mean they’re resentful, it does not mean they view the ways in which they are marginalized as a shortcoming or something they do not celebrate.

2. Listen and watch how people within a community talk to each other, without your participation. Consume media by that community for that community. That’s where your authenticity is gonna come from more than anywhere else. You can ask someone a million questions about their identity but those things that most strongly resonate are also probably so strongly ingrained, they’d never think to tell you. As an example of this, I always remember seeing an Asian woman on Twitter (I’m sorry, I wish I could remember who!) reacting to the way Jessica on Fresh Off the Boat cut fruit in the pilot episode. It was such a bone-deep familiar thing, but I don’t think it’s the kind of detail you’d ever think to express to someone who asked; you just see it and you know – this was written by someone who Knows who I am.

3. As important as “What must be in the depiction of a marginalized character in order to write it” is “What must not be.” When doing your research, see what those people are sick of seeing, are inaccuracies, are lazy stereotypes, are stories that have been done to death in one way or another. For instance, as a Jewish person, I am very, very tired of the Holocaust being the setting for all of our stories. Yes, it hugely impacted my life. But A) we are people beyond it, and B) it perpetuates a very monolithic idea of Jewish identity as being of Eastern-European origin, when in fact there are huge, important, thriving Jewish communities of North African, Middle-Eastern, Spanish, and other origins. Is it offensive to set a book during the Holocaust? No. But is it perpetuating things about our culture and its place in media many of us would like to stop seeing perpetuated? Yes, and that should be relevant to you if you are using our culture for your story.

4. Don’t throw one community under the bus for another. I see this a lot in queer literature, where there’s a bisexual secondary character who’s some “slutty” foil to lesbians, for example. Don’t do this. If your character creation is reliant on other people looking bad so your character looks good, you are unquestionably writing a weak character.

5. There will never be a unanimous agreement among the writing community about who is permitted to write what, so think long and hard about your values in that conversation, and also the people it most deeply affects. If you’re writing outside your lane, deeply consider what already exists by creators of that group and how you can support them as well. Deeply consider why you have chosen this perspective, and why yours is a necessary voice on it. And most of all, really deeply consider your readers and the importance to them of you doing your research and how you present them. The kids seeing themselves in your books. The kids who may be doing so for the very first time. And let them guide you most of all.

More About Dahlia:

I’m an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and I do a whole lot of writing at every spare moment in between. I’ve also been a Production Intern and Editorial Assistant at Simon & Schuster, a Publicity Intern at HarperCollins, and a Fashion Intern at Maxim. (I’m kind of into that whole publishing thing.)

I’m the author of the YA novels Behind the Scenes, Under the Lights, and Just Visiting, and the NA novels Last Will and TestamentRight of First Refusal (March 15, 2016), and Out on Good Behavior (Spring 2016). For information on those books and where you can buy them, check out My Books!

I live in New York City with my husband and our overstuffed bookshelves, and you can find me on Twitter at @MissDahlELama and blogging at B&N Teens, The Daily Dahlia, and YA Misfits.