We are so excited to be kicking off our tour for Alexa Donne’s The Ivies! This will be our very, first-ever BOOKTUBE tour with a conjoined blog tour as well, so we hope you’re as excited and eager to see all of the amazing posts featuring this riveting read.
Today, we’ve got an awesome interview with the author herself, as well as a tour-long giveaway for you to join in on!
If you haven’t already, make sure you add this book tour your TBR, pre-order a copy of the book (there’s only TWO days left to do so!), and follow and subscribe to all of our amazing hosts!
Everyone knows the Ivies: the most coveted universities in the United States. Far more important are the Ivies. The Ivies at Claflin Academy, that is. Five girls with the same mission: to get into the Ivy League by any means necessary. I would know. I’m one of them. We disrupt class ranks, club leaderships, and academic competitions…among other things. We improve our own odds by decreasing the fortunes of others. Because hyper-elite competitive college admissions is serious business. And in some cases, it’s deadly.
Alexa Donne delivers a nail-biting and timely thriller about teens who will stop at nothing to get into the college of their dreams. Too bad no one told them murder isn’t an extracurricular.
Can you tell us a bit about you and The Ivies?
The Ivies is set in the world of competitive college admissions, at an elite East Coast boarding school where a group of girls have spent the last two and a half years sabotaging their classmates to ensure their own path to the Ivy League. But on Early Decision day, one of the Ivies (as they are known at the school), Emma, is admitted to Harvard—while the queen bee of the group, Avery, is rejected. Then, Emma turns up dead. Olivia, the lone scholarship student of the bunch, is determined to solve Emma’s murder, both to clear her own name and save her ass. Because she has a secret, too: she also got into Harvard, so there may be a target on her back.
What was different about writing this book compared to your others?
Pivoting to thrillers was huge—you have to plan and structure them a bit differently than a romance, and the pacing is brutal. Everything has to hang together and deliver a reading experience that is entertaining, satisfying and twisty. The editing process on The Ivies was the most intense I’ve ever done, where I had to tweak and fine-tune character and story progression to deliver a better reading experience. Some aspects were “easier,” that said, such as not having to worry about it being the future and technology (or a happily ever after). It was fun leaning into a modern voice and being able to include some pop culture references. And overall I just love thrillers and thriller tropes—there were aspects of those in my sci-fi retellings but not to this degree. Going all out was fun!
If you had to choose a place in The Ivies to travel to for one day, what would it be?
Ooh that’s really hard to say, and there are only four settings in The Ivies! I’d love to walk the campus of the boarding school I invented, just because hey I love trees and the boat house is a place I’d love to workout in. But Avery’s Wellesley mansion is also goals! But I also set part of the book (the epilogue) in Boston because it’s a piece of home for me—I lived there for eight years, and miss it a lot. So in practical terms, if I could travel to one place, I’d say Boston. Yes, that’s boring haha.
Is there a specific song you had on repeat while writing The Ivies?
I had a nice rotation “edgy” pop on while I wrote, including a gem from my teenage years, #1 Crush by Garbage (hands up if you were also obsessed with the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack in 1996), and bury a friend by Billie Eilish. Also some Depeche Mode, Radiohead, TaTu. A weird mix! (And my next thriller is all about Dua Lipa and Sweet Caroline, so you can imagine the tonal shift.)
Is there something you wished you would’ve added or changed in this book?
I try not to have regrets when it comes to final copies, as otherwise you can always find something you’d like to change, but there’s always something. I would probably forever want to tweak aspects of foreshadowing and pacing, and line level places where things could be said more prettily. But I try not to think about it!
If/when in-person events resume, what bookstore–that you haven’t visited before–would you want to do a book signing at?
I have an indie bookstore bucket list! I didn’t get to travel much with my previous books, so I hope in future I get to visit and do events at places like Powells, Andersons, Book People, Books of Wonder… plus I’d LOVE to do an event at my old haunt Brookline Booksmith in Boston. I shopped so many times there as a broke college student (and broke 20-something) that it would be a dream to be on their event roster! (By the same token, doing something at the BU Barnes and Noble would be a trip.)
Are you currently working on anything, and if so, can you give us any details?
I’m currently drafting my next YA thriller MURDER, SHE TEXTED which is my take on small town secrets with a meta twist. It has bestselling mystery writers, Friday Night Lights, dead Homecoming Queens, a love triangle, and dueling murder mysteries—one in the present and one from 1970. Very different from The Ivies—less about awful people in high pressure situations and more about the faces people choose to show and found families.
Lastly, what is one thing you hope readers learn/take away from your book?
I hope to offer a glimpse—a dramatized but nonetheless based-in-truth glimpse—of what it’s like nowadays for not just high-flying academic teens, but any teen who wants to go to college. It’s a pressure cooker with bizarre unspoken rules, high stakes, and overwhelming odds. I want older readers to give younger generations a little grace—no its NOT like it was when you applied, AND It costs 15-20x more and can lead to a lifetime of debt—the pressure is unprecedented and, yes, teens are allowed to be a bit fatalistic about it all. I hope younger readers feel seen in some measure, and I really hope it’s clear I don’t condone anything that goes on! I didn’t attend an Ivy League and really loathe the way students put those schools (and other T-20s) on a pedestal—please don’t. There are so many good schools, and good fits, and they don’t have to have less than 5% admit rates or be famous to be a great place for you. The system is broken and inequitable by design, though I acknowledge that on some level you have to play that game if you want to land at a half-decent school… but I want younger readers to know that there’s so much beyond this one intense time in high school. And who you are in high school, whatever that means, isn’t who you have to be forever. You’re not tied to that person, let alone those friends, forever, and where ever you land whether it’s college or elsewhere, you can move forward and on and become the person you want to be. Community college or state school or a fancy private—they’re all valid paths for different people, and it’s really tacky to snobbishly look down at any avenue, including not going to college. (And even with a kind of bleak ending, I want to say that I don’t think it’s hopeless for Olivia—a lot of personal development happens between 18 and 25 and you’re allowed to go on a journey and make mistakes. I see her making more mistakes but getting a wakeup call by graduation.)
Alexa Donne is the author of Brightly Burning and The Stars We Steal, YA sci-fi romance retellings of classics set in space out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her next YA, THE IVIES, a thriller set in the world of competitive college admissions, will be out in May 2021 from Crown/Random House. A graduate of Boston University, she works in TV marketing and has done pro bono college admissions mentoring since 2014. A true INFJ, in her “free” time she mentors with WriteGirl, runs the Author Mentor Match program, and manages one of the most popular writing advice channels on YouTube. She lives in Los Angeles with two fluffy ginger cats named after YA literature characters. You can find her in most places @alexadonne.
Buried in Books – Review
The Tattooed Librarian – Review
The Never Ending Chronicles of Jawahir the Bookworm – Review
Books on Stereo – Review & Author Interview
Inquillery – Review, Thoughts while Reading & Songs to Listen to while Reading The Ivies
Braden’s All About Books – Review & Reading Vlog with Book-based Outfits
Kelley Tai – Thoughts while Reading & 5 Outfits Based on The Ivies
Booktube Goddess – Book-Inspired Make-Up Tutorial & Author Interview
Bookish Cousin – Review, 5 Outfits Based on The Ivies & Songs to Listen to while Reading The Ivies
Aliciadreams – Review & Thoughts While Reading
Up for grabs is ONE (1) finished copy of The Ivies by Alexa Donne. This giveaway is open to US residents only and will run from May 23rd to May 30th at 12 AM CST. To enter, click the button below!