Just in time for Advent and the Christmas season, my first middle grade novel, The Ten Fantastic Fails of Rory O’Leary, is out now! At just $7.99 for the paperback (and $3.99 for Kindle), it’s a certifiable steal.
Will Taylor (Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort) called it “Are You There, God? It’s me Margaret meets The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
Rory O’Leary is struggling with her dual identities of a middle school cheerleader and the middle daughter of the only Lutheran pastor in a Baptist town as well as her recent diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. An unfortunate underwear incident and barf tsunami during the Reformation Sunday service leaves her a victim of bullying and blackmail from her former best friend, Laura.
To complicate things further Rory must not only set up her older brother, Mark, with Laura as part of Laura’s blackmail scheme, but she must also portray Santa Lucia and sing a solo at a special church service in December. The prospect of a repeat puke performance sends her anxiety into overdrive. Rory’s mom believes that i
f she can’t participate as Santa Lucia because of her anxiety, she should let cheerleading go. If Rory fails at setting Mark and Laura, Laura will show everyone the video of her puking (and underwear) in church which could jeopardize her place on the cheerleading squad as the video could break the team morality clause. Add in a difficult relationship with her mom, new feelings for her friend Will, confirmation service projects, and bad luck that seems to follow her around, Rory is destined to have quite a few fails before figuring things out.
Like Rory, I once portrayed Santa Lucia at a special service. I was also a volleyball cheerleader in the 8th grade, bullied by my peers, and I suffer from anxiety, but that is where the similarities end. In a way, this story is the story of my heart. I find it far easier to talk about being queer than being a Christian. It wasn’t until about three or four years ago when I started mentoring a young confirmation student at the church I belong to that I realized how important my faith was to me. This is the kind of book middle school Danielle needed to navigate the hard middle school years and her faith. This is also a subject matter we don’t see too often. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about a Lutheran teen, let alone bullying set in church youth group, a place that is supposed to be safe.