Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Lara Jean & Danielle, Danielle

2013-10-13 15.41.26 This is my friend, Danielle.

She is one of my closest friends and as of last Wednesday is now 5 hours away.

You see, Danielle got a great publishing job and has gone to pursue her dreams. However, prior to last Wednesday, she was the manager at Vroman's Hastings Ranch. Before that, she was my manager in the Children's Department.

Danielle started working at Vroman's towards the end of 2013. The photo above, is one of the first pictures that I have of her on my computer. I am not sure exactly what it was for...whether it was me coercing her into some type of social media post, or what. However, what I do know, is that our friendship started with books.

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When I first met Danielle, I remember being very skeptical. I had already been in the Children's Department and didn't know how I felt about a new Manager. This changed when my Mom came by one day, to pick up some board books for my cousin's new baby. I recall being at the desk, handing my Mom Kitten's First Full Moon (because I need to give all children a Kevin Henkes title) and explaining to Danielle my love for Kevin's work (which I do, to feel out all new people in my life-if they don't love Kevin, they are a no-go). I feel like Danielle was distracted, maybe working on something? Regardless, she let it slip that she had actually MET and HOSTED Kevin FREAKING Henkes at her old store. This was before I had met him and was thrilled that somebody actually knew how he was in-person. Again, I will refer you to the title of my blog: Confessions of a Starstruck Bookseller. I can be a little cray sometimes. I admit it. This was my favorite author though! Remember too, that this was 2013 Jen, I was only 22...I still had growing up to do! I digress. From that moment, whilst devouring every detail she would give me, I decided she was okay in my book. :)

Throughout her years as my Manager, Danielle would attempt to persuade me to read books that she had loved. Some I read and others, I didn't. Two of the titles, I hadn't were Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, and To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. I'm not really sure why I never got around to them, but think that it was probably just so our department could have a variety of different recommendations for customers. However, as fate would have it, I would read both in the weeks prior to her leaving.

Let's start with Will Grayson, Will Grayson . This book was beautiful. More about friendship than anything else, two boys named Will Grayson navigate growing up, finding love, and finding their place in the world. Without giving spoilers, while also giving a special shout out to my new fictional friend Tiny Cooper, this book allows readers to see the errors that people make, potential ways to fix those errors, and what relationships (all relationships) mean to people.

In To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Lara Jean struggles with her older sister, Margot, going away to college, while also dealing with the aftermath of love letters she previously wrote, being sent out in the world that were never supposed to be seen. Lara Jean had an innocence to her that I loved seeing on paper. An innocence that was different than other protagonists I had seen in the past.

I was talking to my friend Tiffany today, who mentioned how young Lara Jean seemed. We discussed a point in the book, where (spoiler alert???) Lara Jean gets in a car accident and just cries. My friend said she was frustrated with this. However, I replied that although I haven't been in a car accident in years, that the last one I was in (that was totally my fault), I ended up crying for hours. I cried even though I was not hurt and didn't have a scratch on my body.

All that aside, the book reminded me of another I had read recently, Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis. This might be the point in my post, where you realize all of the components of my title. :) Zinnia, like Lara Jean, also had a sibling leave her. Below is a segment from my Goodreads review: "When Zinnia’s older brother and best friend, Adam, disappears without a proper goodbye, Zinnia is left feeling very alone. This changes slightly (although not in a good way) when a colony of bees decide that Zinnia’s hair makes for a good temporary home. Told in alternating perspectives, between Zinnia and the bees in her hair, this is a story about finding your home, and balancing the feelings of change. "

In both To All the Boys I've Loved Before & Zinnia and the Bees, Lara Jean and Zinnia have to figure out a way to live in a world without their older siblings, how to be independent and find their place, without the one person that was their constant support and guide. This is the moment where I tell you, that I felt exactly the same, an overwhelming sense of loss that my friend Danielle was leaving. She was my guide. She was my support. She made me into an even better bookseller than I already was. She helped me navigate issues at work and issues in my personal life. She helped me become an adult. And although, she had been at our branch store for a year (? maybe more?), she continued to help me in being the best bookseller I could be. How would that change as she left?

In all the books that I have mentioned, the characters, both Will Graysons, Lara Jean and Zinnia, have these intense friendships, and ways that they deal with intricacies of each of those relationships. The support that these character's friends give, give our protagonists the ability to be themselves completely. No judgement. No ridicule. I loved the messages that came out of the three and realized that even though my friend had moved, it wasn't like, she was not a text or phone call away. :)

I guess the point of this post, is as simple as stating that I am going to MISS my friend. However, I know that she is going to do incredible things in her new position. I also have the encouragement and hope that I can be a guide and mentor for another bookseller, just as Danielle was to me. I can also KEEP READING. Everyone gets something different out of the same book. Everyone feels or relates to different things. Danielle helped guide me at Vroman's, but I will continue to make my place there.

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<3 Jen in the Bookstore

P.s. Zinnia and the Bees goes on sale, August 1st! Help support this amazing book, by picking up a copy at Vroman's or by joining Danielle Davis at Skylight Books for her launch!