Fans of young adult beach reads are in for a treat this spring. Marcelle Karp’s “Getting Over Max Cooper,” a summer story of messy relationships between teenagers while they bask on a barefoot island, releases on April 19.
Jazz Jacobson spends every summer on Fire Island with her mom. She spends her days like any other 16-year old on vacation – scooping ice cream with a tiresome adult manager, biking around the tiny town on a beat-up cruiser and meeting up with friends at the beach. And this year, she’s drooling over a surf-obsessed photographer. But while Jazz falls in love, her best friend Macy chases after Max Cooper, the boy who dropped her last summer. Jazz starts to realize that her new romance may have blinded her to how much Macy is struggling.
Marcelle Karp’s new YA book embodies the volatility of friendship and love from the spot-on Gen Z lingo to the realistic dialogue. TMS caught up with the author to talk about her new book and its inspiration.
Writing “Getting Over Max Cooper”
Karp began writing at a young age, creating DIY books with her mother. “[Writing has] always been something that I’ve done. When my daughter was younger I would write her short stories [like] ‘Olivia the Pig,’” says Karp.
She’s also obsessed with the young adult genre. Karp thinks we never lose that feeling of navigating complicated relationships for the first time. “A part of me is so connected to my inner girl,” confesses Karp. “I’m just always in my head, still 16, still trying to figure out how to talk to people that I might have a crush on and manage that.
“[Jazz] is a combination of someone I wish I was more like and quite a bit of me, but I wish at 16 I had her self-awareness, her drive, her relationships with her mother and her friends,” says Karp. “I don’t think I was that self-possessed at 16.”
Though Karp originally wrote “Getting Over Max Cooper” in 2015, it took five more years for the project to take off. “I wrote this book … when my father was dying,” reveals Karp. “It was like a way for me to cope with this very huge loss that was happening in bits. And I showed it to [an agent], and she didn’t respond to it, so I just kind of put it aside.
“And then about a year before the pandemic, my agent and I were talking about another project we could do together, and I pulled [my book] off a drive and said, ‘You know, I wrote a YA book and you might respond well to it,’ and he did. So we worked on it for like three or four months, and we went out with it right before the pandemic hit, like before any of us knew that we should be getting hand sanitizer and masks … I got the book deal two weeks before New York City shut down.”
The paradigm of teenage summer
“Macy and Jazz have been best friends forever, and in this specific paradigm of being summer best friends, you know, you have your friends throughout the school year, and then in the summer, these are the people you went to camp with or you spent your summers with, and they’re a huge part of your story,” says Karp. “These two girls are best friends, and they know a lot about each other, but they also have sophisticated ways of keeping things away from each other.
“The other two very pivotal characters are Leo, who Jazz has a relationship with, and then Max Cooper, who is kind of the thread of this whole story and helps weave the other three characters together in such a beautiful way,” says Karp.
Karp spent many summers at the beach, a space that almost exists outside of time. “There’s this amount of freedom that summer allows when you’re a kid that school doesn’t so much,” reminisces Karp. “What happens when there’s no rules? You have nowhere to be; there’s no curfew, there are no cars, it’s a barefoot town.
“Summer represents freedom to me, and freedom is an interesting paradigm in which to explore nuances.”
Things aren’t always what they seem
Reflecting on how Karp created her web of characters, she recalls her tenth-grade crush. Unbeknownst to Karp, her friend also nursed a crush on him.
“I remember, it was like a field trip to a movie, and he was sitting between the two of us and holding each of our hands,” recalls Karp. “And neither one of us was aware of it until I looked over, and I was like, ‘Wait, what’s happening right now? He’s got so much game … there’s no subtlety to him.’
“The character of Max Cooper isn’t based on that, but it comes from being a teenager and the different ways you relate to the people you have crushes on, and the different ways that they relate to you. Like, the relationship that you have with a crush can be really one-sided, and that’s part of this.”
Some relationships in the summer of “Getting Over Max Cooper” aren’t what they seem. So what happens when your first love overshadows your friends? What is Jazz missing? And can her friendships and newfound crush survive it?
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