“Like Getting Punched in the Face”: Discovering Debut YA The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary

YA thrillers that challenge assumptions and Truthers

By Amy Fitzgerald, Senior Editor

In early March of 2017, my boss sent me a YA novel manuscript to read. She had been kind enough to share a lot of her incoming submissions with me as I worked on building up my own contacts with literary agents, so there wasn’t anything unusual about this forwarded email. I flagged it (confession: I flag everything as “to be completed today” because I can’t function without manufactured guilt) and a few days later, when I had some down time, I opened the manuscript.

Like getting punched in the face

Reading the first few pages was like getting punched in the face. And for an editor, that’s generally a good thing. I emailed my boss (shout-out to the incomparable Alix Reid):

This one’s captivating so far. I’m only about 20 pages in so I’ll let you know if it holds up.

Over the next couple of days, I read the rest of the novel in a state best summed up as Halfway through a College All-Nighter and Finally on a Roll. Then I emailed Alix again:

OK, please read this. I just finished. It’s completely devastating. But also, in a lot of ways, funny. Chuckle-out-loud funny, even. It reminds me of the non-romantic parts of Eleanor and Park, the Eleanor parts (but darker). Or of Angela’s Ashes, where at a certain point you start to feel like this is too emotionally exhausting but there’s enough of a thread pulling at you that you keep reading anyway. (But way wittier than Angela’s Ashes.)

I love this girl. She wouldn’t let go of me. I’m very curious about whether you end up feeling the same way. Let me know.

Alix did feel the same way; I believe she described the process of reading the manuscript as “like having caffeine shot straight into my veins.”

This Thursday, February 2, The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by debut author NoNieqa Ramos is hitting bookshelves.

The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary

Meet Macy

NoNieqa Ramos has created a character who still hasn’t let go of me. Fifteen-year-old Macy is the kind of kid who slips through the cracks of every system that’s been set up ostensibly for her benefit. She’s not going to pull herself up by her bootstraps, because she doesn’t have boots. But she does have a machete, with which she’ll defend her loved ones to the death.

She’s not going to “make it” in the way that’s expected of kids like her–poor kids, kids of color, girls: becoming a miraculous overachiever and somehow finding a toehold of security in a society that prefers to dismiss her. But she’s going to go down swinging (the machete) and cracking wise.

I sometimes hear Macy’s commentary in my head when I’m reading the news–especially news about women who’ve endured abuse, who’ve been written off, who are standing up and speaking up for themselves whether or not anyone will listen. I can’t wait for more readers to get a chance to listen to Macy tell her story.

Having her voice stuck in your head is a gift.

Learn more about The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary

For cover designer Lindsey Owens’s thoughts on the cover, read this blog post.

The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary is available for preorder through lernerbooks.comBarnes & NobleAmazonIndieBound, and all major distributors.

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