What's it about?

Danger. Just Like That is about all the dangerous things in everyday life: keeping and telling secrets, friendship, family, love, and thin ice.

Plot wise, it’s about high school senior Hanna Martin, who takes a late-night walk by a lake near her Minneapolis home and has a life-changing encounter with two doomed teenagers.

Where did you get the idea?

Two things clicked the “on” switch for writing this novel. The first was a bit from my previous novel that continued to haunt me. In that story, Too Big a Storm, a boy and girl  (Mark and Brady) have returned to her house after a first date. He spots an old picture of her that’s on the refrigerator and tells her that he has no photographs of his childhood because he’d grown up in foster homes and institutions. I wanted to believe there was a picture of him someplace and I knew it would be part of a new novel. Too Big a Storm, however, was set in 1969 and I didn’t want to write about that era again. So how was I going to weave an old photograph into a contemporary story? Novel writing is like putting together puzzles; I had a piece in my hand, but where would it go?

The second trigger for JLT occurred during a conversation with a friend. She was telling me about her teenage son who bicycled to school, even in winter, and usually went right across one of the Minneapolis lakes. We both shook our heads at the foolishness of this and hoped aloud that nothing would happen to him on the ice. (Nothing did, BTW; he continued to bicycle to school, graduated, and is doing interesting things.) After hearing about his treks across the ice I began to wonder, What if the nightmare his mother and I imagined came true? And what if you could have prevented it—how would that haunt you? That’s when I put together the two ideas—the photograph and the ice—and began writing.

Is this one your favorite?

Is it ever! Though Hanna Martin is the main character, I loved taking a couple of characters from a previous book into the future and writing about their children. I loved writing about Minneapolis, I loved listening to The Waifs while I wrote, I loved how my interest in music, art, politics, and baseball sneaked into the story, I loved taking breaks from writing and going to Lake Calhoun to sit and stare at the water and think about the characters I was creating. But mostly Just Like That is my favorite because I like Hanna a lot.

What about a sequel?

So many readers email me and ask about a sequel. I love hearing from you—keep it coming. But I may as well say up front what I tell each reader who takes the time to write me: No sequel. I love Hanna and Will, and even though I've thought a lot about what happens to them, I believe I've taken that story as far as I can. When I finish a book, I toss it over to you readers. It belongs to you.

For those who really want more, try my previous novel, Too Big a Storm, which is about Will's parents meeting and falling in love when they were teenagers.

Awards and Attention
ALA Teens Top Ten finalist
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA)
2006-2007 Texas Reading Association reading list for young adults (TAYSHAS)
Minnesota Book Award, finalist
“Qualey is a successful novelist and her previous YA books have appeared on lists of best books—this one almost surely will as well.” —Claire Rosser, KLIATT, starred review
“Qualey's psychologically complex novel deals with issues of guilt and trust, both Hanna's and that of others she meets after the accident ... an intriguing cast of characters whose lives intertwine in often surprising ways.” Minneapolis StarTribune
“After the gripping intensity of the novel's first few chapters, [the book] opens out to explore issues of friendship, trust, betrayal, and family, the accident becoming ground zero for Hanna's journey through several areas of self-discovery. ... Those closest to Hanna are fully realized individuals, winning our investment in their stories as well.” Horn Book
Just Like That
Jacket illustration
© 2005 Corbis/ Punchstock
Speak Books
ISBN 9780142408308
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