Two of our recommended books are The Totally True Story of Gracie Byrne and Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka


Shannon Takaoka offers heartwarming and powerful coming-of-age stories in The Totally True Story of Gracie Byrne and Everything I Thought I Knew.

Shannon Takaoka offers heartwarming and powerful coming-of-age stories in The Totally True Story of Gracie Byrne and Everything I Thought I Knew.

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  • Candlewick Press
  • Hardcover
  • October 2023
  • 9781536228786

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$19.99 indies Bookstore
  • Candlewick Press
  • Paperback
  • October 2023
  • 9781536222876

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$14.99 indies Bookstore

About Shannon Takaoka

Shannon Takaoka is the author of The Totally True Story of Gracie ByrneShannon Takaoka is the author of the young adult novel Everything I Thought I Knew, which was a 2021 Kansas National Education Association Reading Circle Recommended Title and a 2022 TAYSHAS Reading List Selection. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family, where she also works as a business writer and editor.


Praise for The Totally True Story of Gracie Byrne

“A warmhearted story that will resonate with anyone who has ever dreamed of reinventing themselves.” Kirkus Reviews

“A 16-year-old realizes that she can alter reality via her journal in this pensive tale by Takaoka. . . A moving and emotionally satisfying read.” Publishers Weekly

The Totally True Story of Gracie Byrne is a delightful coming-of-age novel in which an unhappy girl learns to appreciate the ups and downs of life.” Foreword Reviews


Praise for Everything I Thought I Knew

“The reader will root for Chloe from page one as she navigates her world post–heart transplant and tries to meld her prior reality with her new one. I couldn’t put it down; it is a beautiful debut from a talented new voice in YA.” —Alexandra Ballard, author of What I Lost 

“Romance and quantum physics intertwine in this frothy introduction to multiverse SF.” Kirkus Reviews

“A thoughtful balance of self-discovery, humor, and realistic relationships will bring in fans of John Green and Nicola Yoon.” School Library Journal

“A compelling tale of following one’s instincts and for connections that outlast physical life.” —Publishers Weekly



Do you ever wish you could write your own story?

I don’t mean like an autobiography or a memoir—something you write when you’re old, when you’re looking back. I mean, what if you could write your life story before it happens, the way you want it to happen? Wouldn’t that be awesome? You could it to happen? Wouldn’t that be awesome? You could be whoever you wanted . . . the Chosen One, secret royalty, or even just a little famous or kind of cool.

I guess what I’m saying is, some creative control would be nice. Because despite all that stuff that teachers like to say about “charting your own course” and being the “captain of your destiny” and whatnot, most of the time I feel like my story is actually being written by someone else—someone who does not get me. At all. The voice is all wrong, for one. I think it needs to be bolder, more confident, and always ready with a snappy comeback at exactly the right moment. And the plot? It sucks. Nothing good is ever happening. It’s like my entire life has writer’s block.

Revisions are urgently needed. Because if I don’t take over this narrative soon, The Story of Gracie Byrne is going to flop— spectacularly—before I even make it out of high school.



September 5, 1987

I click my pen one, two, three, four, five times. It’s my ritual before I write. Click, click. Click, click, click. I run my hand over the blank page of my college-ruled spiral-bound notebook. All that white space. So many possibilities. It makes me feel like I’m on the edge of a diving board, about to launch myself off. Just go. Don’t think. Just write.

Everyone is curious about the new girl. She’s from LA— here only temporarily while her father works on location for a film project. He brought her along to get her out of the Hollywood bubble, where there were too many parties and too much blow. . . .

Hmmm. Maybe the blow is a bit much.

The ice in my sweating glass of tea cracks and shifts. I take a sip, set the glass down on the coffee table, and position myself on the sofa so that I’m directly in the path of the box fan. I close my eyes and try to imagine an ocean breeze, but what I’m getting is more of a musty smell. Dust + Western-Pennsylvaniain-late-summer humidity = must. I click my pen and try again:

The whispers around school are that the new girl, along with her entire family, is in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Now there’s an idea. I wonder what starting over with a new identity would be like. If I had to pick a Witness Protection name for myself, I would choose something more sophisticated and unusual. Like Dallas. Or Brooke. In real life, I guess I could go by Grace, which is at least somewhat grown-up, instead of Gracie, which is what everyone in my family calls me. Now’s my chance, since I won’t know a single soul when I walk into Morewood High on Tuesday, and not one single soul will know me. I’ll be a blank page. Almost like I’m in Witness Protection. Except not.

The new girl spoke multiple languages: English, of course, but also Spanish, Mandarin, and even French, from the years she and her family spent living in Burgundy, where they own a vineyard.

I roll my eyes at myself. Why would anyone move to Pittsburgh if they owned a vineyard in the South of France? I scribble over the Burgundy vineyard and glance at Hank, asleep on the scratched-up hardwood floor, his front paws moving in some kind of doggie dream. Even at rest, he’s chasing something.

I flip the page . . .

The new girl is pissed. Pissed to be starting over at the worst possible moment: right in the middle of high school. Pissed at her mom, who doesn’t understand why it’s not so easy for her to just “make friends.” Pissed at her brother, Jack, who, of course, excels so much at making friends that he has a surplus. Pissed at her dad, who left them three years ago for his new life with his new wife, which, as of two weeks ago, also includes a brand-spanking-new baby daughter. Pissed at the universe, for . . . everything. Actually, she’s worse than pissed. “Pissed” makes her sound kind of tough, like a badass, like a girl who could hold her own in a fight or who plays drums in a punk band. Like a girl people are curious about. But she doesn’t feel like a badass. She feels lost. Lonely. Terrified at the prospect of facing a sea of new faces on Tuesday and not being able to do anything but freeze

Nope! I cross out the entire passage with a giant X. Too much realism.




Here’s one of the many things I thought I knew that turns out to be wrong: you need to fall in love to end up with a broken heart.

That’s not how it was for me. At least not at first.

Sometimes things — glass, eggs, hearts —  just break, and there’s no way to put them back to their exact, original form. You can’t stir the cream out of your coffee. A broken plate, even if you glue it, will always have cracks.  This is just basic physics, or, more specifically, the second law of thermodynamics. Not to nerd out on you too much.

But I’m already getting ahead of myself, which I tend to do, because my brain never seems to want to slow down and just be still.  There’s too much going on in there, especially now. So let’s rewind a bit and begin with the moment the universe decided to start messing with all my assumptions and well-laid plans, big- time.

October 14  at 3:45 p.m.

It’s the fall of my senior year.

I’m running.


“Damn, it’s hot,” I say to Emma as we round the curve at the far side of our high school’s track.  e lane lines vibrate ahead of me in the heat. Halloween is a few weeks away, and it must be more than eighty degrees, at least.

Emma, her auburn ponytail smooth and perfect, looks like she’s barely broken a sweat. “Is it?” she asks. “Feels pretty good to me.” A warm spell, typical for the San Francisco Bay Area in the fall, has brought us beach weather in the middle of a month packed with college application submissions, a er- school practices, and, as always, piles of homework.  The result: we won’t, in fact, be hanging at the beach. Cross- country is basically the only time I get to breathe outdoor air.

We’re doing intervals today, and Emma’s pace seems faster than usual. As soon as we are side by side, she pulls ahead. I have to push myself to catch her. I push, she pulls. She pulls, I push.  This is starting to annoy me, even though it’s what Emma and I always do when we practice together —  we compete.

She pulls ahead again. I try to focus on increasing my pace.

Focus, Chloe, focus.

But all I can think about is water.

I didn’t drink enough before practice.

I didn’t drink any water, actually. I got held up leaving seventh period because I needed to talk to Ms. Breece about my paper proposal for AP Physics and had barely enough time to pull on my running shoes. My proposal is going to be late, which Ms. Breece made sure to note is “unlike you, Chloe,” which is true, I guess, but it got me thinking about what really, honestly is “like me,” because sometimes, or maybe even all the time, I’m stumped on that one. Which got me stressing again about my college application essays and whether they are mind- numbingly boring, and, by extension, if I am mind- numbingly boring. Which resulted in me I forgetting to fill up my water bottle.  This is starting to seem like kind of a big mistake, now that my mouth has gone dry and I’m dizzy and feeling like I might be about to throw up all over my shoes.

I turn to Emma. Her mouth is moving, but I only hear her last few words.

“. . . don’t you think?” she asks. “Chloe?” Cross- country is when we catch up on anything we didn’t get to talk about at lunch.  e pop quiz we weren’t expecting in Calc. Weekend plans. Emma’s ongoing analysis of her five- minute conversation with Liam Morales about Catch-22 —  Was it an excuse to talk to her? Or did he just need some quick info from someone who actually read the book? —  a topic that, for my own reasons, I really don’t want to analyze anyway. But I must have zoned out for a few seconds, or minutes, because I have no idea what she just said.

“Think about what?” I barely have enough breath to get out the words, so I slow to a light jog as Emma pulls ahead of me for the third — or is it fourth? —  time. Instead of pushing, I just stop. My heart is thumping hard.

Thump thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump. It’s all I can hear.  Thumpthumpthumpthumpthump.

Emma turns around. “Chloe?” e lane lines ahead of me look wrong.  They’re not just vibrating, they’re rippling. Like those wave graphs in my physics textbook.  The whole world around us is rippling. Are we having an earthquake? I look toward Emma, also rippling, who has now stopped running too and is staring at me, eyes wide.

“Chloe, are you okay?” My chest feels like it’s being crushed. My ears are on fire. Sweat is running down my face and my back, soaking my shirt.

Not okay, I think.

Definitely not okay. But I can’t say the words. And then the world that’s spinning, spinning, spinning like a top gets tipped over, me with it.  The last thing I see is the brilliant blue of the October sky overhead.