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Preteens find perfection in new author

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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Libraries and bookstores house countless pages of stories waiting to be picked up by avid readers. One particular 304-page book flies off the shelves as preteens grab copies, soon to be sucked into the precise, yet chaotic, world of Elly Swartz’s “Finding Perfect.”

To discuss her highly praised debut novel and some of her upcoming works, Swartz visited the Westwood Public Library on October 10, where her fans learned more about Swartz, her career, and her new novel.

“Finding Perfect,” released in October of last year, follows 12-year-old Molly Nathan as her obsessive-compulsive behaviors work against Molly to cripple her relationships and everyday life. Novels for preteens and teenagers discussing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are few and far between, making Swartz’s debut novel a must-read for eight to 12 year-olds.

“Even if you don’t have OCD, it touches a lot of peoples’ lives, so it gives you that window into what somebody else might be going through,” said Swartz. “I felt like it was a book that people could relate to, whether someone has OCD or not.”

At the informal after-school program, Swartz told the group of girls that she would be revealing secrets about herself and her work – things that they couldn’t learn from her website or from an interview they watch online. She talked about all of the hidden characters in her novel, like the names of her sons and husband assigned to secondary characters, and their family pets that snuck into her writing.

Swartz even admitted that she wrote four books before “Finding Perfect,” but that they’re simply called practice. After years of rejection from publishers, though, Swartz discovered something about herself. “This is what I learned through my eight years with this book and 15 years to ‘yes’ … that I love writing more than I hate rejection,” she said.

Elly Swartz, a realistic fiction author, shows a group of her readers the possible titles for her novel before she came up with the name “Finding Perfect.”

Elly Swartz, a realistic fiction author, shows a group of her readers the possible titles for her novel before she came up with the name “Finding Perfect.”

On her slideshow, Swartz posted a picture of the number 52. After some guesses as to what the number meant, she revealed to the group of girls that “Finding Perfect” went through 52 main revisions and eight years of work before it became the finished product they could find at the library.

The group talked about possible sequels to “Finding Perfect,” characters from the book, and asked about possible genres Swartz might write in the future. Swartz also discussed and read from her upcoming novel, set to release in January 2018, “Smart Cookie,” and read the first pages of her in-progress novel, “Give and Take,” to which readers can look forward in 2019.

“I think I sort of have a 12-year-old girl broadcasting from inside of my body,” Swartz joked. “When I sat down to write, I didn’t sit down to write a middle grade [book,] but that’s what came out.”

Even for preteens who don’t tend to read much outside of school, “Finding Perfect” has proved to be a book that’s difficult to put down.

The Westwood Library is certainly looking forward to adding more of Swartz’s captivating novels to their collection as she continues to release novels that inspire and enthrall middle school readers.

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