Vertical by Janet Berend


Skateboarder Josh Lowman witnesses one of the best skateboarders in town, the local bully, commit a life threatening crime. For days he agonizes over whether to tell anyone. Meanwhile, his friendships with a fellow skater (who is debating whether to drop out of school), a girl in his class (who loves to read, and seems to like Josh), and a cool math tutor (a college student who skates) slowly steer him toward a new kind of courage. Realistic skateboarding scenes and a forward moving plot intertwined with references to classic literature and “words of the day” make Vertical a story that kids, teens, teachers and parents will enjoy.  Josh Lowman starts out as a school-hating dude and slowly comes around to seeing that he can skate and be smart . . . and be a decent person, too.

Amie:  Hi Janet! *Waves* Welcome to MUF! Now that you’re here tell us why you like to write middle-grade books.
Janet:  I love trying to capture the voice of a teen narrator. Let’s face it–young people have the best time with language. They’re not afraid to get creative and find new ways to say things. So I like writing middle grade books because it gives me an opportunity to explore language in a new way. Also, I like writing about some of the real life issues that middle grade kids face (changes in friendships, pressure from parents, teachers and friends etc.). I like to write about these issues in a meaningful way. Teens have the ability to think deeply about their world. I like to create stories that will encourage them to think. YOLO. Peace out! 🙂
Amie: So true! Who is your favorite author?
Janet:  I really like what Suzanne Collins did with the Hunger Games (the first book in the series). I love Sherman Alexie and I’m also a huge fan of Jon Green.
Amie:  Great authors! We’re huge fans of the Hunger Games series in our house. My high school aged daughter enjoys Jon Green, especially when they watch his video clips in History class.  Tell us what you like most about your main character, Josh.
Janet: I like that Josh Lowman is a good kid who is a bit overwhelmed with the whole transition into high school. I teach high school so I know exactly how he feels. If Josh had it his way, he’d spend every waking hour skateboarding, because he knows skateboarding. Too many things are happening at once in his world, and I love that he wants to do the right thing, he just needs time to figure out how to do it. He’s a good guy, and I really like that about Josh Lowman.
Amie:  Those are endearing qualities in kids, ones we overlook too often, especially when they’re overshadowed by other decisions and passions. Do you prefer to taste the rainbow of skittles or chomp on the chewiness of gummi bears?
Janet: Neither! There has to be really good chocolate involved if I’m going to do the whole candy thing. I’m a huge fan of high quality dark chocolate. I also like a well-made brownie or a piece of home made chocolate cake. Yum!!!!!
Amie:  Me, too, Janet. Me, too.

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Janet Eoff Berend loves to swim, surf, play music, read, cook and write. She teaches English at La Costa Canyon High School and enjoys life with her husband, two kids, and dog in Encinitas, California. She doesn’t drop in on vert ramps, but deeply admires those who do. You can visit Janet at her website.

If you’d like to win a copy of Vertical by Janet Berend, just leave a comment below! Contest ends October 15th, 2013. Open to US and Canada only, please.

Amie Borst writes twisted fairy tales with her middle-grade daughter, Bethanie. Their first book, Cinderskella, releases October 26th! You can find them on facebook.

  1. I would love to win a copy for my middle school friend who is a reluctant reader but loves skateboarding.

  2. Nice interview! Janet, great idea to integrate Skateboarding into your story. Could be the spark that really makes a connection with kids. Might get some skaters more into reading, might get some readers to spend more time on a skateboard, hopefully a bit of both! I certainly look forward to reading it and wish you great success.

    Bryan Tracey
    SkateXS – Skateboards for Kids

  3. I like Janet’s comments about capturing the voice of teens and that they have the best time with language out at that age.