Luke Aday knew that his sister’s death was imminent—she had been under hospice care for months—but that didn’t make her death any easier on him or their family. He returns to school three days after the funeral to a changed world; his best friends welcome him back with open arms, but it isn’t the same. When a charismatic new student, Eddie Sankawulo, tries to welcome Luke to his own school, something life-changing happens: In a moment of frustration, Luke runs into an empty classroom, hurls his backpack against the wall—and the backpack never lands. Luke Aday has just discovered that he can stop time.
Today we’re very happy to be interviewing Rachel Davidson Leigh author of Hold.
Hi Rachel, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Hi! Thank you so much for having me on your blog! I’m Rachel, and my hobbies include overanalyzing television shows and pairing readers with their perfect books. My debut novel, Hold, is a story about grief, identity, and transformation. After his sister’s death, Lucas Aday can hardly drag himself back to school. He couldn’t possibly prepare himself to stop time or to fall for the only other boy who doesn’t stop moving.
Do you have pictures that you use for your characters? Can you share them with us?
Absolutely! From the top left and moving clockwise, we begin with Luke, our hero; next is Marcos, Luke’s long-time best friend; Dee is Luke’s other best friend and the older sister of the little jerk that won’t leave him alone. And then there’s Eddie. He’s the new boy who leaves Luke wrong-footed on his first day back, and who seems to have a never-ending list of secrets. They aren’t the perfect match for the people in my head (and I wish I had a pic of Eddie that wasn’t in black-and-white), but they come pretty close. For Luke, I’ve used a picture of a young Suraj Sharma. You might know him from the film Life of Pi or the television show Homeland. I also have friends in real life that I think of for each character, but I chose not to raid their high school yearbooks.
What kind of book would you like to write that people would see as a huge departure for you?
Well, this book is dark. Moving through grief makes up a huge portion of the story, and the other characters are dealing with really serious moments in their lives. The short story I published in Summer Love, “Beautiful Monsters” is similarly heavy, so I think it would surprise readers if I went back to my writing roots and wrote a book that was light and comedic. That’s where I got my start and I love reading comedy. Fluffy, fun stories are also incredibly important for representation, particularly when we’re talking about communities that have traditionally been related to drama and tragedy. So, I’d love to whip out a playful romantic comedy and just let all of my characters have a good time!
Have you ever killed a character? Was it traumatic for you? If you haven’t killed one, would you ever consider it?
Honestly, I’m not sure. Obviously, at the beginning of Hold, Luke’s sister has already died, but the story includes so many flashbacks and she’s such a live force in his life, that it very much feels like it’s my fault she’s gone. I suppose it was traumatic, especially since I lost a sibling under similar circumstances. There were times when it was hard to write her absence, but it was also cathartic. When Luke was raw, so was I, and when he moved forward, I let her go.
Favorite location you’ve ever written about?
It might seem strange to say, but it’s a classroom. In Hold, Luke and Eddie spend a lot of time in a single classroom that gets used for German and theater. The walls are covered in posters of old German-language films, the back shelve are packed with scripts, and they practically live in there for weeks as they work on a theater project that Luke finds utterly terrifying. Over the course of those rehearsals, that room becomes a makeshift stage for Shakespeare, Tony Kushner, and classic Greek comedy. Luke and Eddie transform each other in that room, and that might be why it feels like the most magical place in the entire book.
What’s your favorite season and favorite activity for that season?
I adore the fall. So many of my toughest moment have happened during this season; it’s not an easy time, but since I live on the academic calendar, I’ll always think of it as a time of new beginnings. I love talking long walks on tree-lines streets and listening to the leaves crunch under my feet. If that walk ends in a coffee shop, even all the better.
As he entered the junior commons, Luke almost stepped on a pair of shoes. The girl wearing them found her way around him and scowled under her breath as Luke leaned against the nearest wall. He was going to look teary-eyed and breakable no matter what. Along the edges he couldn’t do more damage, and that’s where he caught the flash of blue. It was on the wall next to the boy’s bathroom.
The poster, held up by Scotch tape, announced the theater department’s Spring Review in the same color and font they’d used when Luke was nine. Ten years from now they would probably still perform Shakespearian tragedies and Oklahoma. This year, they were doing 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, but he didn’t care about that. He cared about the names of the tech crew written across the bottom of the poster. That was their spot, his and Marcos Aldama’s and Dee’s. For a year and a half, since they’d been trusted to not to electrocute themselves, they’d run tech for every production this school had bothered to stage. Dee was supposed to be the stage manager, Marcos was supposed to be on sound and he was supposed to be on sets.
But he wasn’t there.
He found Dee’s and Marcos’s names right where they were supposed to be, and then there was a third name. He’d been replaced by Neil Vargassi. Vargassi? Luke had last heard that name when he’d found out that “that Vargassi kid” had fallen off the stage during warm ups and had had to be sent to the emergency room.
Luke read the poster three times with his hand pressed against the wall beside it. The wall wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t sure about anything else.
They wouldn’t—He read it again. But of course, they would. He’d been gone a month at the beginning of the spring semester with no explanation. Of course they would have found someone to take his place, and he’d had the easiest tech job in the world. He wasn’t irreplaceable, but he’d never thought—
He turned away from the poster and made himself move, as the sickness slid into his gut. It pooled in a sludge below his navel, like a toxic spill, and his body wanted it gone, but there were people going in and out of the bathroom. There were people everywhere.
Luke clasped his hand over his mouth. On his right, the door to a dark classroom sat ajar. He threw himself inside, grabbed the trashcan by the door and gagged until his eyes watered. Nothing came up. He couldn’t even make himself puke. He couldn’t do anything but make people feel sorry for him.
Luke crouched at the closed door with his back flat against the metal kick plate, and pressed his fingers against his temples until pain blossomed under his skin. His stomach turned.
I can’t make it stop, because I shouldn’t be here anymore.
He closed his eyes against the empty classroom, the dirty book jackets and the kick marks on the legs of the chairs.
I should be gone. It should have been me.
Luke pushed himself to his feet and tasted tears. His phone rang in his backpack again and again. He had to answer it because it could have been his mom, but his hands couldn’t remember how. He pulled at the zipper on the front of his bag, but it wouldn’t give. He couldn’t make it move. He tried again and, before he knew what he was doing, he hit it. He hit the bag over and over again until it crunched under his fists. He punched grooves into the plastic lining and ripped holes in the straps.
The holes were real. He made them. The fabric tore under his hands. He made that happen. But the phone wouldn’t stop ringing—four, five, six—and, as he gasped for air, he lifted the backpack and heaved it across the room like a grenade.
Luke turned away, closed his eyes and waited for it to smash against the far wall. He waited and listened for the crunch and the snap, but it never came. His bag never hit the floor.
I don’t know what to say or how to review this book because I was expecting something completely different. It just wasn’t what I expected and therefore I had a bit of a hard time getting through. I still liked it but I didn’t love it is probably the most accurate statement.
Looking from the outside, this book has everything I love, an awesome group of friends, the “new guy” who is a bit of a mystery and of course the super powers. And super-powers that aren’t used that often at that! So I should be over the moon and recommend it to everyone but Hold and I just didn’t click.
The whole time I was reading I was waiting for the moment when I understood why Luke suddenly has those super-powers. What made it awaken or show up? Why now? What changed that he needed them? But I didn’t get answers and apart from a scene were his powers are life-saving it didn’t feel like they added anything to the plot. Of course it’s nice to see him test them and play with them, but apart from that he doesn’t really do anthing with it.
Most of the book is Luke and Eddie together working on a school project, but the reader still never really gets to know Eddie. He’s a mystery throughout the story and only at the end do we get to know more about him.
The constant questioning who he was and why Luke had his super-powers unfortunately made the book feel slow at times. Overall the story had a lot of potential but just didn’t live up to it.
But a big thumbs up and extra star for the aro-ace and the openly bisexual character! Even if just a side character, but I loved Marcos and loved to see it stated on page that he’s aro-ace. I think that was also the first time I’ve seen this in a book.
About the Author:
Rachel Davidson Leigh is a teacher, a writer and an avid fan of young adult LGBTQ fiction. Her hobbies include overanalyzing television shows and playing matchmaker with book recommendations. Currently, she lives in Wisconsin with her family and two neurotic little dogs. Hold is her debut novel. Her short story “Beautiful Monsters” was featured in Summer Love, a collection of short stories published by Duet Books, the young adult imprint of Interlude Press.
*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher
Blog Tour Genre: Paranormal Orientation: Bisexual Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Interlude Press Review Tag: coming of age Duet Books Genre: Young Adult Hold new release PoC Rachel Davidson Leigh