Hi, I’m Jessica Cunsolo. I started writing for fun when I was 17 and posting my story, She’s With Me, to a free story sharing website, where it soon garnered over 140 million reads. Since then, I’ve been able to do what I love most and create fun, drama and romance filled Young Adult stories for everyone to enjoy. Best Vacation Ever is my fifth published book, and is a stand alone about two best friends, Lori and Faye, who go on an all inclusive week-long vacation to Cuba with Faye’s older brother and his friends. As Lori tries to prove she’s not boring without losing herself, she also juggles feelings for two different boys, one of which is Faye’s brother. Meanwhile, Faye realizes she’s in love with her brother’s best friend, and wants it to be more than a secret fling. This sets them both on a path of learning what they want when it comes to love and themselves. Best Vacation Ever is available anywhere books are sold on June 20, 2023.

What inspired you to create the characters of Lori, Faye, and their friends in this story about a weeklong vacation?

Best Vacation Ever was inspired from when I went on vacation with my friend and her brother and his friends. Nothing quite as fun and dramatic happened on my trip like it does in the story, but there were things I drew upon and wrote into the book. For example, on the trip, I really did get a concussion, and I had one of my characters get a concussion in almost the exact same way I did! I found myself drawing upon a lot of things that happened to me throughout the years when writing this book, (like the time a boy kind of probably saved my life in the same way Dean saves Lori in the beginning, except I was so embarrassed I never talked to him again even though we went to school together for the next 6 years). I chose to make this book take place just after highschool graduation because I started writing this book at that stage in my life, right after highschool but before university, where you’re trying to figure out who you are and what you want for the rest of your life, and everything feels like it’s heightened, uncertain, and unraveling, but do it in a wild, romance and drama filled way.

How do Lori’s struggles with speaking up for herself play a significant role in her character development and her relationships?

Lori’s inability to speak up for herself plays a key role in a lot of the tension and drama throughout the novel. Her parents want her to carry the family legacy and become a surgeon, forcing med school down her throat at every opportunity, but she absolutely does not want to be a doctor. Faye, her best friend, tends to take advantage of her without realizing it. Adam, Faye’s brother and Lori’s longtime crush, dictates how Lori should and shouldn’t be acting while on vacation. Everyone is telling Lori who she is and how to behave when she barely knows it herself, and learning to stand up for herself plays a significant role in her character development and relationships because she’s able to finally put her foot down and do what she wants to do. This week-long trip and the drama and tension that occurs helps her figure out how exactly she can do that.

Can you discuss the dynamic between Lori and Faye, and how their differences contribute to their friendship?

Lori and Faye compliment, challenge, and contrast each other as best friends so perfectly, and I loved using their opposing character arcs to create more drama and put pressure on their friendship. Lori is a people pleaser, quiet, shy, hates being the center of attention or causing problems. Faye does whatever she wants whenever she wants, doesn’t care what people think of her, and thrives as the center of attention. For example, Lori, who’s trained as a lifeguard, saves a drowning girl’s life and freezes when everyone cheers for her. Faye loses her bikini top during a pool event and when everyone catcalls at her, she only winks and makes a joke before putting it back on. They’re such different people, but it works in the story because their strengths are the other’s weakness and vice versa. Lori never does what she wants and lets people push her around, and Faye’s selfish and often doesn’t take other people into consideration. They both have something to learn from one another to become better people, and through the events that unfold during the vacation, they each learn to be a bit like the other person to help them with their flaws.

How does Faye’s relationship with her brother Adam and her secret hook-up with Kellan drive the drama in the story?

Faye and her brother Adam have never had a particularly close relationship, and Faye wishes it wasn’t the case. She feels like her brother hates her and doesn’t know why, and wants nothing more than to feel like her brother cares about her. At the same time, she really likes Kellan and wants to keep seeing him, but if Adam found out the truth, he’d end up hating her more. He’s explicitly told Faye to stay away from his friends, especially since the last time she dated his friend it ended badly, and he lost a friendship. During the vacation, Faye tries to have it all: a relationship with Kellan, and a relationship with her brother. But it becomes increasingly difficult to walk both lines, and the shenanigans she pulls to keep her secrets hurt not only her friends, but also herself, Kellan, and Adam.

What challenges do the characters face when Faye’s scheme to make Kellan jealous unfolds during the vacation?

Lori and Faye have their own storylines and their own journey, but what happens in one always directly or indirectly affects the other. When Faye decides to make Kellan jealous, all the steps she takes afterward affects not only her relationship with Kellan, but also her relationship with her friend Dylan, her brother Adam, and Lori’s own relationships. Lori herself has to cover for Faye multiple times or run interference for Faye to keep Adam from knowing. Faye uses her friends, either knowingly like Dylan who agrees to be a pawn, or unknowingly like Dean, Lori’s crush, which causes a fight between Lori and Faye. One of Faye’s biggest character flaws is that she’s selfish and doesn’t think about how her actions affect others, and while chasing that goal of making Kellan jealous, she hurts everyone around her along the way without realizing it.

How do the conflicts among the friends affect the various relationships and friendships within the group?

One of my favorite things to do in stories is to play with the group dynamics between friends. There are 5 guys who are all best friends, as well as Lori and Faye on the trip. Everyone is their own person, as in everyone has their own goals, desires and flaws, and all of these mesh and tangle throughout the week to create more tension and drama throughout the friend group like you would see in real life.

How does Lori’s gym crush being on the trip add to the complexity of the story and her own personal growth?

Everyone on the trip knows Lori. They put her in this little box of Faye’s quiet, smart, responsible friend who always does the right thing. They know exactly who she is and what to expect of her. Except Dean, Lori’s gym crush. He gets to know Lori for who she is, not who he thinks she is. He gives her his unbiased opinion and advice instead of telling her what they think she needs to hear, helping Lori realize what she wants. Where Adam scolds Lori and tells her dancing on a table isn’t like her, Dean tells Lori it looked like she had fun. And she did! Having Dean on the trip isn’t just great for that low key love triangle, but we get someone to push Lori and help her grow because he doesn’t tell her she can’t do things or have expectations of her like everyone else.

What themes and messages do you explore in the novel, particularly regarding romance, friendship, and self-discovery?

There are many themes and messages throughout the novel. In point form, here are some of the most prevalent ones while keeping as spoiler free as possible: 

-Not all friendships are perfect, and the best friendships are ones where you can learn, respect, and grow with one another

-It’s okay to “not know”. Sometimes you don’t know what you want or what the future holds (especially as a teenager who just graduated highschool and now needs to figure out what to do for the rest of their life), and that’s okay. You can take time and space to figure it out

-Girls, including teenage girls, do and are allowed to like and enjoy safe, consensual sex, and we don’t need to stigmatize them

-People make mistakes and aren’t perfect, and sometimes you need to hit your absolute lowest point before you even realize it

-You don’t need a boyfriend to be happy

-Communication is key

How do the characters’ secrets and revelations impact the overall plot and the development of their relationships?

In a big friend group where everyone is stuck together for a week with nowhere to hide, we’re bound to have secrets revealed. Secrets are secrets for a reason, because if they’re found out, things are bound to get really messy, really quickly. The revelation of the secrets, including the way in which they’re revealed, always impact the plot and character development because it shapes not only the characters’ motivation and conflict, but also their growth and transformation in how they handle the truth and the following backlash.

How does the sunny vacation setting influence the tone and atmosphere of the novel?

A summery vacation setting sets the scene for lots of fun and drama. We’re on a resort where everyone is in fun vacation mode, where anything feels like it’s possible and we’re looking at the world optimistically. It gives us a light, summertime feel where we have beaches, pools, parties, and unlimited alcohol. Having the book take place on a resort serves as an escape from their everyday life away from their parents and the confines placed on them, and allows them to solely focus on the characters and what they want.

What was your favorite scene to write in this stand-alone novel, and why?

This is such a fun book so I loved writing a lot of scenes, but I think my favorite one to write was when they are at the club and Faye makes a huge mess of almost all her relationships and gets them kicked out of the club. It’s such a low for Faye, one that she needed to hit in order to make her own realizations and grow from it. And to make matters worse, the person that she absolutely hates, Kiara, is the one that comes in and offers her help. We get to see that people are messy and imperfect, and also that people are kind and forgiving.

Can you share any insights into your writing process and how you developed the plot and characters for this book?

I am what is known as a “pantser”, which is someone who writes without an outline and makes it all up as they go along. This technique works best for me because it’s not only more fun, but usually I don’t know what’s going to happen until I sit down and start writing. Even if I try to outline, once I start writing the characters decide they want to do something different. For this story, I made it up as I went along, often infusing (but exaggerating and amplifying the drama) scenarios that have happened to me in real life. I didn’t even know it was going to be dual point of view until after I wrote the first chapter from Lori’s point of view, and Faye was such a strong character I wanted her to have her own storyline as well. I ended up loving this because Lori and Faye contrast each other so perfectly that they are both imperative to the other’s growth. 

How does this novel compare to your other works, and what makes it unique within your collection of YA stories?

This novel is unique within my collection of YA stories not only because it’s a stand alone, but because the overall vibe is lighter with a summertime feel. In all my stories there’s a sense of drama, humor, romance, and suspense, but Best Vacation Ever is more grounded in reality. The events that unfold in Best Vacation Ever are all things that realistically could happen to anyone, and are quite possibly things that have happened to the reader. My With Me series in contrast is a bit darker with more elements of mystery, and includes things that probably wouldn’t happen to your average reader, like having a stalker, car chases, death threats, and the disappearance of your friends. Both stories showcase relationships and growth and are fun and wild, but Best Vacation Ever is the book you want to bring with you to the pool with a fruity drink and just have a good time.

Lastly, what upcoming projects or new stories are you working on that you’d like to share with your readers?

I am currently writing my 6th book, Belong With Me, which is a sequel to my book Be With Me and comes out in January 2024. I also just finished my story The Blind Date Agreement which is available to read for free on Wattpad. It’s another fun, summer, YA stand-alone that is laugh out loud hilarious. It’s about 17 year old Carina who agrees to go on a series of awful blind dates to hide her crush on her best friend’s boyfriend, and in the process she discovers who her true friends are, unexpected love, and most importantly, herself. 


About The Author

Jessica Cunsolo’s young adult series, With Me, has amassed over 215 million reads on Wattpad since she posted her first story, She’s With Me, on the platform in 2015. The novel has since won a 2016 Watty Award for Best Teen Fiction and has been published in French, Spanish, and English. The story is also in development for TV with Sony Pictures Television. You can find her on Twitter @AvaViolet, on Instagram @jesscunsolo, or on Wattpad @AvaViolet.