Friday, February 19, 2016

52 Likes with Medeia Sharif

Today I'm featuring Medeia Sharif, the talented author of the gritty YA book, 52 Likes. I'll let Mr. Synopsis give you a taste before the interview begins:

After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. Not knowing the identity of her masked rapist and dealing with the nasty rumors about that night are two things that plague her daily.

Valerie will have to follow ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site. Why do all of their eerie photos have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he’ll put up a fight to remain hidden. 

SRW: Medeia, in 52 Likes, you tackle a tough topic in rape. While it was grueling to read the first chapter (although expertly done), I think you perfectly captured the various stages and emotions a rape survivor (I won't call Valerie, your protagonist, a "victim"; I don't think she'd like to see herself that way.) goes through. Did you do heavy research, talk to survivors? It really rings true.

MS: Thank you, Stuart. I rewatched some movies that involved rape—like “The Accused”—and read plenty of articles and message boards about rape survivors. It wasn’t fun and put me in a dark place in my mind, but I wanted to get 52 LIKES right in that aspect.

SRW: There also seems to be an anti social-media theme going through the book, one that makes cyber-bullying for teens that much easier. And more anonymous (I take this theme to task as well in my Tex, the Witch Boy series). While I know social media is a must for authors to build a readership, do you feel it does more damage than good?

MS: I think it’s great for people who use it to keep in touch and connect. I’ve had people try to bait me online, but because I’m an older person who can walk away and ignore, I believe no one can hurt me through social media. For young people who aren’t discreet with information and pictures and with the way they take things to heart, I’ve encountered teens who’ve been damaged by it.

SRW: I was surprised to see your book segue into a mystery and particularly, a ghost story! I had thought it was going to be a gritty, modern-day, downer drama (albeit it, a very well done one). Did you have this in mind from the beginning or did it evolve naturally?

MS: I’m a plotter. I had the opening scene in mind and knew I wanted a young woman to figure out who her rapist is, so the mystery was there all along. As I outlined, the ghosts came naturally into the story.

SRW: Your dedication contains a message I never tire of. "Things get better." A simple, yet powerful, statement. Without that belief, the lives of rape survivors, the bullied, the downtrodden teens would be very hard to confront. Is that the sentiment you want your readers to carry away from the book?

MS: Absolutely. We’ve all been distressed by something—assault, death of a loved one, and anything else that batters us emotionally—and although it seems like everything for a while, we need to know that we can get past these issues and life does get better.

SRW: Okay, I thought I was up on teen trends and what not (my daughter's a recent survivor of high school hell). But your tale had a couple of new items I've never heard of. First of all, what's a "thot (and please, keep it relatively PG. Lol.)?" Second, it's been some time since I darkened a high school hallway, of course, but I don't remember the guys splashing awful cologne on themselves as liberally as the male characters in your book do. What's up with that?

MS: “Thot” is new slang for “slut” and “whore.” Around the time that I wrote the book, I heard it a lot in my parts. I’ve met some young men who do wear an insane amount of cologne. Even if the other boys in a room aren’t wearing any, they certainly make up for that. Maybe it’s just them finding their style, in the same way some young women wear too much makeup or the wrong colors until they find what’s right for them. I don’t recall all the cologne when I myself was growing up.

SRW: In my (and my daughter's) high school experiences, bullying pretty much was kept solidly on the same sex lines: boys bullied boys, girls bullied girls. In 52 Likes, poor Valerie's worst bullies are all boys. (I love how she gives back to them, adopting a tough girl persona). Do you see this as true these days? Is it based on your own experiences? Or does bullying not know gender lines?

MS: I don’t think it knows any gender lines. Bullies can go on relentlessly about something they dislike about someone, male or female. Although it usually is same sex, I’ve seen bullying opposite sex.

SRW: I enjoyed the ghost story element of your tale. Kinda creepy, neck hair raising stuff. Have you considered writing a straight-up supernatural spook tale?

MS: Yes. I’m always trying to stretch myself by writing in different genres. I’ve also had ideas for supernatural tales, but I haven’t drafted them yet.

SRW: Tell everyone about your other books. And what's up next for Medeia?

MS: I have three “light” contemporary YA books entitled BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER., HOT PINK IN THE CITY, and SNIP, SNIP REVENGE. My dark contemporary YA is VITAMINS AND DEATH. I have one published middle grade, THE ATTIC OF SAND AND SECRETS. My soon-to-be-published book coming out this spring is a horror middle grade, THE HAUNTED STEPSISTER, that’s multicultural and centers around a girl who needs an exorcism.  

SRW: Thanks so much, Medeia, for visiting. Now everyone go out and get 52 Likes. It's a powerful work.


  1. Everything does get better, if for no other reason than things always change. Young people really need that message.

  2. I agree with Alex. Now if we can get more young people to listen...

    It's nice to get to know you better, Medeia. Stuart, thanks for sharing the interview!

  3. I don't know if age has much to do with not engaging negatively on social media. It's more a wisdom thing. I see a lot of adults who can't deal with negativity on social media. Though, personally, I'm much better at dealing with it at my age than I would have when I was a teen.

  4. Loved learning more about you, Medeia. I'm a panster and found it interesting that you're a plotter. I want to learn more about plotting. I know it would have to be a timesaver. Thanks for having Medeia over, Stuart.

  5. Super interview! And yes, "52 Likes" is a really good book. I hope a lot of teenagers read it, because the message is an important one. Things do change and usually, they do get better, and teenagers often lose sight of that when they're up to their necks in a bad situation.

    Cool to see Medeia's picture, too!

  6. This was an excellent interview. Medea, you sound so prolific. 52 Likes sounds like an important book for young people to read. They live in such a difficult world, it's good for them to know things really do get better.