Behind the scenes

Shadi, the editor of Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein, on the importance of this new book

Did you know that 92% of chart songs talk about sex? I didn’t until I read Girls & Sex by journalist Peggy Orenstein (out in October). If you look at today’s panicked headlines, it might sound like we have an epidemic on our hands: ‘casual hook-up culture invades universities’ and ‘primary school boys watching porn’. It’s little wonder we all think everyone else is at it! Refusing to buy into all the scare-mongering, Peggy decided to reach out to girls at high school and university and ask them the questions very few parents dare to ask. The results are both fascinating and frightening.

What she discovered was a large gap between perception and reality. Young people overestimate the amount of bed-hopping that actually goes on among their peers. They are not, in fact, having more sex now than in previous generations. What has changed, though, is that relationships are more likely to begin with physical intimacy than with a date. What, so no blushing over a coffee, or touching hands as you both simultaneously dive into the same bag of cinema popcorn, or grabbing a bite to eat that may or may not end with an awkward kiss goodnight? But that’s the best bit!

I’m not the only one who thinks that: Peggy cites one university survey in which 70% believed their fellow students only wanted casual hook-ups. But in reality, nearly 75% of boys and 80% of girls said they’d prefer a date to a hook-up. And nearly 80% of students said they would like to be in a loving relationship. These findings are borne out in Dana Reinhardt’s brilliant Tell Us Something True, when 17-year-old River falls apart after his girlfriend Penny decides to dump him. Until, that is, he finds someone else to be the object of his affection, the damaged but loveable Daphne, even lying about having an addiction just so he can see her at group therapy sessions. Aaah.

Peggy’s findings warmed my heart. Love isn’t dead! Most young people today crave it just as much as they always have. So where has this outwardly casual attitude towards sex come from? One answer suggested in Girls & Sex is porn. It’s an industry that has had serious consequences in terms of the way young people interact – and view themselves. Especially girls. So many of them share stories about how hard it is to get male attention and affection, while also avoiding conflict or being labelled. As one girl said: “every girl’s goal is to be just slutty enough, where you’re not a prude, but you’re not a whore”. What a complicated balancing act; I bet hardly anyone succeeds. What success in relationships might actually look like is another issue raised in the book – the popular baseball metaphor of reaching first base, second base, third and fourth makes physical intimacy sound like a game – one with opposing teams, winners and losers.

So who are the losers here? The young women in Girls & Sex are mostly strong and confident, but when it comes to relationships, it often goes out of the window. They feel such pressure to act in a certain way; a way that puts a man’s needs and desires before their own.

The struggle is real in Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces (out in October), the heart-breaking story of Charlie, a teenage girl battling with her identity after suffering sexual abuse in the past. But as she pieces herself back together, her story offers hope to anyone who feels lost amidst all the expectations and pressures, and provides the building blocks to become strong and empowered women. Just like Kady, the gutsy, fearless and crazily smart heroine in Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman’s trilogy The Iluminae Files (the second book, Gemina, is out in October). Don’t we all wish that for ourselves and for our daughters?

Decades of progress in gender equality have been made in the workplace and in politics. Now it needs to be recognised behind closed doors and underneath the bed covers too. This is what Peggy hopes to do with her book; by starting a conversation between parents and their sons and daughters, and among young people themselves, she hopes the world will wake up and take notice, and not let the internet and chart hits decide our relationships for us. Because, as Peggy warns, ‘as long as adults still avoid open discussion of sexuality, teens will inevitably seek information on today’s electronic street corner’.

Fortunately, books can be a great source of inspiration to encourage us not to follow the digital herd.


Call for Book bloggers/vloggers!

The_Island_9781780748597Illuminae_9781780748375Swan Boy_9781780749242Nest-9781780748092

From today (27 January) until Monday, 1 February, Rock the Boat will be adding new names to our YA Book blogger/vlogger list! This means that whenever we have an exciting new title, we’ll get in touch with you to offer a review copy and some pre-pub goodies. If you review YA or middle grade books, please consider signing up. Rock the Boat publishes about 12 books a year from a wide variety of authors, languages and voices.

We have a limited number of space and will only be accepting names from today until Monday, 1 February! Sorry, but we can only send books to the UK, Ireland and Europe. If you live outside these territories, send us an email and we’ll inform you of books available in your territory. Additions to the list are made at our discretion.

Please send an email to with the subject line ROCK THE BOAT BLOGGER LIST. In the body, please send us the following information:


Blog/YouTube channel URL:



Any other social media:

Preferred genre:

Review copy postal address:


We’re looking forward to working together!

the Rock the Boat team x




Desert Island Reads from Rock the Boat

In the spirit of The Island by Olivia Levez, where a teenage girl named Fran gets stranded on a desert island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, we thought we’d ask some of the Rock the Boat team what their desert island reads would be.


Kate Beal – Head of Sales

  1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  2. Passage to India by EM Forester
  3. Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby
  4. Wise Children by Angela Carter
  5. The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard


Lawrence Keough – Publicity Assistant

  1. Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander
  2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  3. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  4. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
  5. King: My Autobiography by Ledley King



Adriana Chittleborough – Commercial Manager

  1. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  2. Emma by Jane Austen
  3. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
  4. The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  5. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  6. Mrs. Dalloway by Viriginia Woolf   


Payvand Agahi – Marketing and Sales intern

  1. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  2. Emma by Jane Austen
  3. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  5. Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey


The YA market and how bloggers can make a change

The YA market has grown considerably in the last few years. Some say it’s because of the Harry Potter effect; with the original readers of the series becoming enthusiastic book lovers who  then wanted books suited for their ages.  The bookshops then gave much more space to YA and some great authors were discovered and published.  The books spawned series and the series spawned film and TV adaptations, and the YA  book world exploded.  This is thrilling and I wish when I was a teenager I had this choice of books.  Years ago children’s books were published for kids up to the age of 9 and then you were expected to read the classics or nothing until you felt it was the right time to enter the  Adult department of a bookshop or library.

Bloggers are a key part of the YA world.  The enthusiasm and knowledge they share is crucial to the life of the book.  The hardest thing to do is to market books to teens: as publishers, we don’t inhabit the same world, and we would be seen as patronising if we tried to.  This is the first time when this age group actively buys their own books and so they want advice from the (a) the same age group and/or (b) bloggers they admire and trust.  The really good booksellers are either actively blogging themselves or taking notice of what is going on and buying in the books on that recommendation.  It is what we used to term ‘word of mouth’, but now carried out on a quick and efficient medium.

Illuminae has been really successful for this reason.  The bloggers have loved it and very importantly they have had a lot of interaction with Amie and Jay–the authors–on social media.  Authors need to be out there too, getting their books known and read and creating fans for the future.


–Kate Beal, Head of Sales

My first adventures in YA

Before coming to Oneworld, I worked for a small publishing house specializing in translated literary fiction. I often found that it was an uphill battle to get publicity for a literary novel translated from, say, Slovenian. After all, these were talented writers with compelling, beautiful, emotional stories, told in unique ways. Who wouldn’t want to read a great story by a talented author? Where he or she is from should be irrelevant.

I had never worked in YA or children’s publishing, and the last YA novel I read was years ago. Then, during a meeting, our publisher started to talk about a new book she’d just bought: NEST by Esther Ehrlich. It was about a girl growing up in Cape Cod, who has a tough time with her family. All of a sudden, this story became relevant to me: I’m from Massachusetts; we used to holiday in Cape Cod when I was a child.

I started reading the manuscript that weekend and devoured it in just a few days. It was then that my battle cry came back to me: if it’s a great story written by a talented author, then count me in. What does age range have to do with it? Who was I to have this prejudice? Why would I deliberately exclude a portion of books being written solely based on the intended audience? That’s absurd, of course!

And then I picked up CONVERSION by Katherine Howe, which also takes place in Massachusetts. The teenagers talked like I used to talk, and the landmarks in Boston were so familiar, as well as the abominable snowy winters, which I endured for 22 years of my life. So, while books can take you to all sorts of places you’ve never been, they can also take you home. These stories immediately felt close to me, and they gave me the energy, motivation, and sentimental nudge I needed to dive into the waters of YA literature.

So, for whatever it’s worth, this Red Sox baseball-loving-clam-chowder-eating-Cape-Cod-vacationer from Massachusetts hopes you enjoy Rock the Boat.



Rock The Boat Q&A

Sarah Odedina, Role: Publisher

Q. How long have you worked in the world of publishing?

A. Over 25 Years!!

Q. Do you have a favourite book?

A. I don’t really have favourite things.  There are just too many things to really love.  I really love Wide Sargasso Sea.  I really love Holes. I’ve just read H is for Hawk and I really, really love that at the moment.

Q. What is the meaning of life?

A. Family. If I had a magic wand I would wish everyone a family in which they are loved and supported and made strong.

Q. If you were trapped on a deserted island, what three books would you like to be stranded with?

  • The Complete Works of Shakespeare
  • The Bible
  • A collection of poetry from Elisabeth Bishop

Q. Nature or Nurture:

A. Both. But probably more nurture than nature. If we are nurtured: supported and encouraged and trusted, we can all be better versions of ourselves.

Q. If you could be any fictional character in the literary world, who would you be and why?

A. I don’t think I can pick just one. I think Zero from Holes because of his faith and trust and for being such a very good friend.  Mary from Witch Child because of her courage.  Large from No Matter What because of her patience and supportive love.

Q. Any last comments?

A. That was quite hard!

Cailin Neal, Role: Marketing and Sales Executive

Q. How long have you worked in the world of publishing?

A. Around four years.

Q. Do you have a favourite book?

A. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

Q. What is the meaning of life?

A. If it’s not fun don’t do it.

Q. If you were trapped on a deserted island, what three books would you like to be stranded with?

  • Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
  • J R by William Gaddis
  • L’Étranger by Albert Camus

Q. Nature or Nurture?

A. Nurture.

Q. If you could be any character from the literary world, who would you be and why?

A. I would be Mario from Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, because he is so simple and a very uncomplicated person.


Kate Beal, Role: UK and International Sales Director

Q. How long have you worked in the world of publishing?

A. 28 Years

Q. What is the meaning of life?

 A. Happiness, Fulfilment and the future.

Q. If you were trapped on a deserted island, what three books would you like to be stranded with?

  •  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  •  White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  •  (Can I bring a kindle so I can have unlimited books?) If not then a book of maps


Q. Nature of Nurture?

A. Nurture, because you are born with what you’ve got, and you can make it better with nurture.

Q. If you could be any character from the literary world, who would you be and why?

A. Dora from Wise Children, she had a wonderful life and her best friend was her twin sister.

Adriana Chittleborough, Role: Commercial Manager

Q. How long have you worked in the world of publishing?

A. Round about four years.

Q. Do you have a favourite book?

A. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Q. What is the meaning of life?

A. Do good, be good, have fun.

Q. If you were trapped on a deserted island, what three books would you like to be stranded with?

  • “Is there a book on How to Survive a Desert Island for Dummy’s?”
  • A puzzle book, complete with Sudoku, crosswords and other puzzles.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot 

Q. Nature or Nurture?

A. Both. Nature nurtured.

Q. If you could be any character from the literary world, who would you be and why?

A. Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind because she is silent, resilient, resourceful and also very beautiful.

Lamorna Elmer, Role: Publicist

Q. How long have you worked in the world of publishing?

A. Four years

Q. Name your three favourite books

  •  Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  • The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller, translated by Michael Hofmann
  • Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore

Q. What is the meaning of life?

A. To enjoy yourself and to improve the lives of those around you as much as possible.

Q. If you were trapped on a deserted island, what three books would like to be stranded with?

A. The Elena Ferrante Neapolitan trilogy. Fashionable, I know, but so so good, and her voice is so authentic I’d feel like I had a friend. 

Q. If you could be any character from the literary world, who would you be and why?

A. Lyra Belacqua? Her life is quite stressful, but exciting and Scandinavian, and a daemon would be pretty cool. Not to mention having a massive bear as a mate.

Juliet Mabey
Juliet Mabey: Co-Founder and Publisher of Oneworld Publications


Q. How long have you worked in the world of publishing?

  A. Around 30 Years

Q. Do you have a favourite book?

  A. I certainly don’t have favourites among our own books, but I do have favourite authorsI love to read and re-read: Ali Smith, Carol Shields,Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Richard Flanagan, among many. And favourite books include Kate Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers on the non-fiction side, and Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram on the fiction side.

Q. What is the meaning of life?

  A. To become conscious and caring as a person – of course, much easier said than done.

Q. If you were trapped on a deserted island, what three books would you like to be stranded with?

Apart from a very handy SAS Survival Handbook? I think one-volume complete works of Tolstoy and

Shakespeare – because you’d never tire of re-reading them, and would find something new to enjoy and savour every time.

Q. Nature or Nurture:

A. The jury is still out on exactly how much we are influenced by nature or nurture, but the latest evidence suggests the two actually interact rather than representing a dichotomy. Our genes appear to change in response to our environment, and these changes can even be passed on to future generations. But I’d put emphasis on nurture as this is something you can deliberately control – or try to.

Q. If you could be any fictional character in the literary world, who would you be and why?

A. Peter Pan? Too lonely, sentenced to an eternity looking at life from the outside. Frodo Baggins? Too much responsibility. Perhaps Nigel in Down with Skool by Geoffrey Willans – funny, fearless, something of a subversive, and an astute social commentator…