Spotlight on The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen, Plus Giveaway!
Today we're spotlighting Leah Konen's novel, The Last Time We Were Us. Read on for a note from the author, more about Leah, her novel, an excerpt, plus a giveaway!
I got the idea for THE LAST TIME WE WERE US in one of those allatonce writer flashes (that I didn’t believe actually ever happened until it did happen). I was sitting in my mom’s house, looking at an old mirror and thinking about how my friends and I would have pretended it was a door into another universe way back when. I was hit with a pang of nostalgia, and suddenly I knew I wanted to write a romance about two friends who grew up together—and grew apart. The idea grew from there—I saw Lizzie and Jason, playing their childhood games, flitting from her house to his, and then how everything changed as they got older, the kinds of situations that could truly break them apart. Lizzie and Jason are both nostalgic characters, and even if they are nostalgic for different things, they are both constantly trying to find a way back to before, when everything from friendships to family to just plain life, was easier.
I also wanted to explore violence and anger—and specifically its ties in our culture to masculinity. What does it mean to be a tough guy in the South? What does it mean to be entitled, to have everything given to you? How does it affect the way Southern boys treat the women around them? And of course, I wanted to explore femininity as well. In a culture as traditional as the South (not to mention, in a setting where governors IRL are making laws about gender and bathrooms), what does it mean to fit into the mold of the ideal Southern girl? And how does that affect the choices you make, and the relationships you pursue?
These are just some of the things that were kicking around in my head while I was writing—and by all means, they aren’t exhaustive. One of the best things about writing is seeing how your books can mean so many different things to different people. If you do check out THE LAST TIME WE WERE US, I’d love to hear what it meant to you.
Meet Leah Konen!
Leah Konen grew up in a two-stoplight farming town in Washington State before moving to suburban North Carolina, where there were many more stoplights and lots of sweet tea. After studying journalism at the University of North Carolina, she headed to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. When she’s not working on novels and articles or writing for fashion brands, she enjoys devouring new books, spoiling her dog, Farley, biking around Brooklyn, checking out live music, and binge-watching TV. Find her online at www.leahkonen.com.
Now meet The Last Time We Were Us!
The Last Time We Were Us is a passionate summer love story about a girl, her childhood best friend recently released from juvy, and the small town lies that have kept them apart – a teen romance debut with a dark edge.
Liz Grant is about to have the summer of her life.She and her friend MacKenzie are getting invited to all the best parties and, with any luck, Innis Taylor, the most gorgeous guy in Bonneville, will be her boyfriend before the Fourth of July.
Jason Sullivan wasn’t supposed to come back from juvy. A million years ago, he was her best friend, but that was before he ditched her for a different crowd. Before he attacked Innis’s older brother, leaving Skip’s face burned and their town in shock.
Liz always found it hard to believe what they said about Jason, but all of Bonneville thinks he’s dangerous. If word gets out she’s seeing him, she could lose everything. But what if there’s more to that horrible night than she knows? And how many more people will get hurt when the truth finally comes out?
Leah Konen’s southern romance swelters with passion, as it explores the devastating crush of lies, the delicate balance of power and perception, and one girl’s journey to find herself while uncovering the secrets of so many others.
Exceprt: Chapter One
The name startles me, as I stand in front of the cooler at the Gas Xpress in West Bonneville, where the beer is cheaper and they don’t card half as much as other convenience stores, fiddling through my bag for my fake ID.
No one’s supposed to know me here. And everyone who does knows I haven’t gone by Lizzie for three years now.
Everyone except for him.
I turn around quickly, and there’s Jason behind the counter, my fears coming to instant fruition. When I walked in, it was a pimply college kid who didn’t look like he’d give me a problem, but now that boy is gone, replaced so suddenly by the last person I ever expected to see. Not here. Not now.
I walk up to the counter nervously. He looks as startled as I am. “What are you doing here?” I ask.
“I just started my shift.”
“I mean, but what are you doing here?”
I haven’t seen him in almost two years. Besides in the Bonneville paper, of course. And on the special that brought in the news guys from Raleigh, Jason and other delinquents’ faces splashed across the evening news (Westboro County cleans up juvenile hall, sets new example for North Carolina’s youth detention centers).
“I was released on Monday.” His voice is deeper, and even though he’s my age he could probably pass for twentythree, his face covered in stubble, his dark hair greasy and thick but neatly cut.
“I thought it wasn’t for another six months,” I stammer. It was meant to be well into senior year. It’s not that I expected his return to cause all that much drama on my end, given that my years as Jason Sullivan’s BFF are long gone, but it seems like I should have been given some kind of warning, been allowed to prepare.
“Parole,” he says.
“Oh. Well, congrats.” I immediately want to whack myself on the head for being so awkward.
He rests his palms on the counter and looks at me with the brown eyes I’ve known for as long as I’ve understood the very concept of eyes, and for a fleeting moment, I see us as kids, my finger a toy gun, me playing the bad guy for the afternoon, him ducking for cover behind the great big magnolia bush that split our backyards in two. The nostalgia hits before I can stop it.
I look behind me to see if anyone else is waiting, for the presence of another human to speed this encounter along, but there’s no one. Just us.
“So you’re working here now?”
“I’m certainly not volunteering.”
He must see the discomfort on my face, because he smiles, almost as if he’s trying to remind
me that we were friends once and that we can joke with each other. Can we?
“I just meant it’s kind of far. I didn’t expect to see you here.”
He fiddles with an errant receipt. “It’s only about ten minutes from my dad’s condo. And it’s
part of the whole rehab program. This is one of the few places that happily take excons. My probation officer helped set it up.” He grins like that should be funny, but it’s not.
I bend my fake ID between my fingers, no clue what to say.
Jason squirms behind the register, his eyes flitting to the case of Natty Light in my hand. “Are you trying to get that?” he asks.
“Oh,” I say. “Yeah.” I set the unconvincing piece of plastic that says I’m twentytwo on the counter, but Jason hesitates. “I mean, can I?”
Jason’s eyes dart around the store, but even though it’s still empty, he shakes his head. “I can’t really do anything illegal right now.”
And just like that, our whole history has culminated in a standoff over a fake ID. “Of course.” I grab the plastic as quickly as I can.
“I should really take that, too, but since we’re friends, I guess it’s okay,” he says. Friends, I think. Present tense and everything. Right. I put it back in my bag. “Er, thanks then.” I grab the beer. “I’ll just put this back.”
“Leave it.” He reaches across the counter, and I hand him the case.
“Well, bye,” I say.
“Later,” he says.
But as the bell dings and the door swooshes shut behind me, I wonder if there ever will be a
The Last Time We Were Us
By: Leah Konen
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Three winners will receive a copy of The Last Time We Were Us (US only).
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This sounds like a great book, I love the idea of the characters reconnecting, and the whole friends-turned-lovers thing! Thanks so much for the chance!
This book sounds like a powerful read with so much thrown at the characters--situations I'm thankful not to have to deal with, but will enjoy becoming a temporary part of when reading it.
The cover is beautiful and it sounds like a great book. I love how its a twist on the normal contemporary plot with how the best friend goes to juvy and then they learn to be friends again and so on after everything that has happen. Also I'm always ready for a great contemporary romance, especially since the summer is coming. It sounds like it will be right up my alley and that I would fly through it in a day.