What a fascinating cover.
I Am Me by Kai Strand
Despite—or perhaps because of—her fancy car, private school education, and life of privilege, Lola Renaldi has become a volunteer junkie. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, visiting the elderly—if it’s a good cause, she’s done it.
Lola’s favorite stint, building affordable houses, puts her directly in the path of Rodney. He refuses to discuss why he’s doing community service, but it’s clear he’s hiding something dark about his past. As their friendship grows, Lola begins to question the true reasons for her obsessive volunteerism and her view of those she has pledged to help.
She is only beginning to understand how lucky she truly is when her life falls apart. After losing friends, her boyfriend, even Rodney, Lola finally recognizes which parts of her life she wants to hang on to and what specifically she wants to go after. But with all she’s been through, will she be able to hang onto who she wants to be? Or will she lose all that defines her?
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From Kai Strand.
My best friend is a volunteer junkie. She’s received several presidential awards for her dedication. Plus, I used to work for Habitat for Humanity. So, volunteerism makes it into my stories on a regular basis, but this time is plays a big role. In I Am Me, our heroine is a volunteer junkie. Lola lives a privileged life and wants to spread her advantage around. But as life so often does, she meets new people and has new experiences and soon she’s questioning herself and her motivation for giving back. Is she selfless or selfish? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
I Am Me by Kai Strand
Ah, Saturday. I love my Saturday volunteer gig best of all.
“Is that car ever dirty, Lola?” Hank asks as I leap over the open trench where they’ve run all the electrical from the house to the road. I glance back toward my BMW, parallel-parked and gleaming in the watery sunshine. I got it a year and a half ago, for my sixteenth birthday, but I still love the heck out it.
“Not if I can help it, Hank. The blue isn’t nearly as sexy when it’s all dusty.” I strap a tool belt on and sign my name on the clipboard. “What are we working on today?”
“Caulking.” Hank looks away, but not before I see his smile.
I groan, dramatically. “Again? How much caulk can one house need?”
Hank is called away by one of his actual employees. Not that he treats us volunteers any different than the paid people. Actually, I think he might treat us a little better. Of all the places I volunteer—community kitchen, teen transitional housing, book mobile, to name a few—Hank is by far my favorite boss to work with. He’s exactly what I want to be when I grow up. The perfect balance of professional and compassionate.
I swap out my tool belt for an apron and grab the supplies I’ll need. An image of my mother, frowning—no, glowering—fills my mind.
When I grow up. That’s a laugh. According to my mom that’s in six months and eighteen days. Personally, I hope I don’t have to grow up for a few more years. Twenty-two sounds like a good age to officially grow up. But eighteen? That seems way too young.
I pull my hair through a ponytail holder, twirl it into a bun, and wrap the elastic around it a couple of times. I feel lumps where the hair should be smooth and strands sticking out in all directions, but it won’t end up in the caulking, so I leave it alone. I scan the volunteers to see who showed up today.
Regular Jan sees me and waves. “Hey there Lola. You here to help with forms?”
The “Regulars” are a group of retired men and women who volunteer Monday through Wednesday of each week. The only reason they’re here on a Saturday is because they love to set the forms for the concrete footings.
I shake my head. “Hank’s got me on caulking. I must have done something to tick him off.”
Regular Larry straightens. “Where’s he at? I’ll talk to him.”
“Nah, that’s okay, Lare. You know I don’t really like going home smelling like that oil-soaked wood. I’ll stick to caulking.”
I wave as I head toward the home I’ll be working on. This house is being built for a single mom and her two kids. The mom, Talia, is a new hero of mine. She’s a nurse. Works nights. But she’s been here more hours than the non-profit’s home buying plan requires of her, working all the way up until she has to leave to shower for work. I have no idea how she does it. I hope to someday be the head of a non-profit that helps people like Talia realize their dreams. Though my powerhouse mother makes a degree in social work sound like I’ll be digging latrines, which if it’s for impoverished people I’m all for doing.
About the author:
When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died. The end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Learn more about Kai and her books on her website, www.kaistrand.com.
Congratulations, Kai Strand.
Happy Reading! Watch for a review in a couple of weeks.