It’s summertime, and thirteen-year-old Nina Ross is feeling kind of lost. Her beloved grandma died last year; her parents work all the time; her brother’s busy; and her best friend is into clothes, makeup, and boys. While Nina doesn’t know what “her thing” is yet, it’s definitely not shopping and makeup. And it’s not boys, either. Though . . . has Eli, the boy next door, always been so cute?
This summer, Nina decides to change things. She hatches a plan. There are sixty-five days of summer. Every day, she’ll anonymously do one small but remarkable good thing for someone in her neighborhood, and find out: does doing good actually make a difference? Along the way, she discovers that her neighborhood, and her family, are full of surprises and secrets.
In this bighearted, sweetly romantic novel, things may not turn out exactly as Nina expects. They might be better.
Michele Weber Hurwitz is also the author of “Calli Be Gold” (Wendy Lamb Books 2011). She lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband and three children, and loves to walk and eat chocolate (not at the same time).
What inspired this book?
I was inspired by several thoughts. First, although we hear a lot about paying it forward and doing random acts of kindness, sometimes the amount of problems in our world overwhelms me, and I wondered: does doing good really do any good? Is it helping make our world a better place? Second, I wondered if people always react positively when random good comes their way. Also, I worry about how technology has altered family life and neighborhoods. Lastly, I read about a class at the University of Iowa where the professor had students write down each day three positive experiences — no matter how big or small. It changed the students’ perspectives. I started doing that too. We tend to focus on the negative, instead of recognizing small good things that go right every day.
What’s your favorite scene in the book, and why?
There are so many that I love. I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers, but there’s a particularly poignant scene at the end with the main character, Nina, and a five-year old boy in the neighborhood, Thomas, where the essence of the book comes together. Every time I read it, I tear up.
What made you want to become a writer?
In fifth grade, I won a writing contest with my crayon and construction paper book, “The Chair That Knew How to Dance.” The prize was reading it to the kindergarten classes. This couldn’t have been a more defining moment. I still remember the kids’ expressions as I read my book and felt the joy of storytelling. The author in me was born right there!
Where do you write?
I write in a first floor home office that looks out on my tree-filled backyard. One October a few years ago, two red foxes ran into my yard. I live in a busy suburban area so this was unusual. I was startled by their wild beauty. There’s a fox in this book because of that experience, even though I wasn’t writing this story at the time.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In this order: a teacher, ice skating star, model, singer, writer. Thank goodness I came up with that last one.
What is your favorite quote?
“Sometimes losing our way is the best and most beautiful route home.” (I lose my way a lot. It usually ends up okay. Eventually.)
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Listen to your heart. Write what you want to write, and keep going, despite failures. It’s part of the process. Learn from those failures and get better.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I walk! I love, love, love to walk and I try to walk every day. My routine is writing in the morning, taking a break for lunch, then walking. Being outside — without my phone or music, away from the computer — helps me move forward in a story.
What are the things that bring a smile to your face?
A bright red cardinal outside my window. Babies. Ice cream. A perfect 80 degree sunny blue sky day. My three kids. When my hair looks good.
What’s your hidden talent?
I’m a super organized person. My kids tease me that our house is like a puzzle. Everything fits perfectly on shelves and in closets. I do not have a junk drawer! I think I drive everyone a little crazy sometimes.
What’s your favorite candy?
Hands down, Butterfinger.
What are the top three places on your bucket list?
The Summer I Saved the World… in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz
Open to US only