Hey, everyone. I’m migrating my occasional series, “Laura’s Bookshelf,” from Author Amok to the new digs. If you’ve missed a past episode, you’ll find a full list of what’s been on my bookshelf at the end of this post.

One of the best parts about being a debut novelist has been connecting with other middle grade and YA authors in the class of 2016.

Over the holiday break, I read THE DISTANCE FROM A TO Z by Natalie Blitt. This French (and baseball) infused summer romance had me ignoring the cold, dreary weather. Instead, I dreamed about walking on the sunny, cobbled streets of old Montreal. Preferably with a cute boyfriend by my side. (Hey — I’m allowed. My cute HS boyfriend is now my cute husband of nearly 25 years).

distance from a to z

Find it on Amazon.

Abby is spending the summer on a college campus, where she is taking an intensive French course, designed to bring her from awkward to fluent in the language of love. Being a Francophile is how Abby has defined and identified herself, a way of separating herself from her family’s overbearing obsession with baseball. There’s only one other high schooler in her class, and he’s super cute, but those baseball t-shirts he’s always wearing are kind of worrying to Abby.

What follows is an adorable “will they or won’t they get together” story. With a lot of coffee. And one of my favorite BFF’s ever, Abby’s summer roommate, Alice.

This contemporary YA launched on January 12. Congratulations on your debut, Natalie! Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

This full-length novel by debut author Natalie Blitt is a pitch-perfect blend of Stephanie Perkins and Miranda Kenneally that proves the age-old adage: opposites attract.

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.

THE DISTANCE FROM A TO Z is appropriate for older middle school and up. (There is some very mild underage drinking).

Who will like it?

  • Teens who enjoy fun romance novels.
  • Budding Francophiles.
  • Readers who share Abby’s need to form an identity for herself.

What will readers learn about?

  • What it’s like to be immersed in a foreign language program.
  • How to help a friend who is socially anxious and/or has sensory processing issues (I love you, Alice!)
  • The importance of honesty in a new romance.

Those who are new to the Bookshelf, I always pair a poem with the books I feature. And I found THE PERFECT poem for Abby and Zeke. If you read May Swenson’s “Analysis of Baseball” as a metaphor for relationships, the push and pull are exactly what’s happening in this story of Summer Lovin’.

Analysis of Baseball
by May Swenson

It’s about                    Ball fits
the ball,                      mitt, but
the bat,                       not all
and the mitt.             the time.
Ball hits                      Sometimes
bat, or it                     ball gets hit
hits mitt.                    (pow) when bat
Bat doesn’t                meets it,
hit ball,                       and sails
bat meets it.              to a place
Ball bounces             where mitt
off bat, flies               has to quit
air, or thuds              in disgrace.
ground (dud)            That’s about
or it                             the bases
fits mitt.                     loaded,
                                     about 40,000
Bat waits                    fans exploded.
for ball
to mate.                     It’s about
Ball hates                  the ball,
to take bat’s              the bat,
bait. Ball                    the mitt,
flirts, bat’s                 the bases
late, don’t                   and the fans.
keep the date.           It’s done
Ball goes in                on a diamond,
(thwack) to mitt,      and for fun.
and goes out              It’s about
(thwack) back           home, and it’s
to mitt.                       about run.

What’s on Laura’s Bookshelf?

COUNTING THYME, by Melanie Conklin (12/31/15)

FENWAY AND HATTIE, by Victoria J. Coe (12/24/15)


PAPER WISHES, by Lois Sepahban (11/19/15)

THE GIRL WHO FELL, by S. M. Parker (11/5/15)

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN, by Jeff Garvin (10/29/15)

SHALLOW GRAVES, by Kali Wallace (10/1/15)

MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, by Brooks Benjamin (7/22/15)


Actual Laura’s Bookshelf. Clockwise from top: Quote from PB author Melanie Greenberg, Hedwig, owl riding Rumi the tortoise, Babar in a car, Minotaur – Skeleton pirate – Aragorn, meditating cat, crystal ball – fossil – mostly poetry shelf, owl ornament, DIY initials from hubby, me and my bros, favorite books shelf.


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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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