You and Me and Us by Alison Hammer is the March 2021 pick for the Parenting Tweens and Teens book club. The novel portrays some intriguing parenting challenges between a mother and her 14-year old daughter as they lose someone they both love. On 3/31, I’ll be posting three discussion questions related to the parenting aspects of the novel on the @pttbookclub account on Instagram.
Interview with Alison Hammer
Me: The mom in the book seemed pretty against her teenage daughter pursuing acting. Were there any activities you wanted to pursue when you younger that your parents were against?
Alison: My parents were both really supportive of my sister and I pursuing our different activities. And we had a lot of them—dance and theater and piano and basketball, and I was really involved with a Jewish youth group. In the book, I think of Alexis’s resistance to letting CeCe pursue acting more as a misguided attempt at trying to protect her daughter. By the end, Alexis realizes that removing obstacles doesn’t help her daughter as much being there to help her get back up again if and when she does get hurt.
Me: What other ways did your own experience inspire or influence scenes in the book?
Alison: I’m not a parent, but I am a daughter (my mom wants everyone to know that we have a great relationship!) and there are definitely pieces of myself in both the mother and daughter characters. Some of the moments in the book where CeCe is acting like a brat are slightly inspired by my own teenage years. I probably owe both of my parents an apology…
Me: Were any notable changes made based on feedback from early readers who were parents?
Alison: In the first draft of You and Me and Us, CeCe was twelve. I had several beta readers tell me that there was no way a twelve year-old would be going to a party, drinking beer and kissing boys. Instead of changing the scene, I decided to age her up. I ended up making her fourteen because freshman year like the right time where she would be dealing with so many other life changes in addition to what was happening at home. I didn’t want to make her any older than that because there was another scene I didn’t want to lose when her dad is teaching her how to drive a few years too early.
Me: What else would be interesting for readers to know?
Alison: When I first started writing You and Me and Us, I thought it was the story of a man who had a terminal diagnosis and wanted to spend one last summer with his family at the beach. I had a few early readers point out that while that’s what happens in the book, it’s not what the story is about. The story is about the relationship between Alexis and CeCe, mother and daughter, as they deal with this big change in their family. Through writing, I also realized that both Alexis and CeCe want the same thing—be loved and accepted by the other—but they each get in their own way of getting what they want. I am hopeful for them both and the future of their relationship.