Young adult novel tracks romance between Fil-Am teens
Tif Marcelo said she had always wanted to write a young adult novel. But it was an adult romance that got Marcelo her first book deal in 2017. It wasn’t until last month that she finally fulfilled her goal to write a book for teens with The Holiday Switch — her eighth book and first YA novel published on Oct. 5 by Underlined Paperbacks.
“I was such an avid reader growing up, and I remember how much books really affected me when I was a young adult,” she said.
“And now that I have two [children] that are adults, and one that’s 16 and one that’s 11, the more that they’ve grown up, the more amazing they seem to me. And I really wanted to write books for them.”
Holiday Switch follows Lila Santos, a Filipino American teen, who falls for a coworker she constantly butts heads after they accidentally switch phones.
As Marcelo created the story, it was the fictional town of Holly, New York that came to her first, inspired by a period of time that she lived in upstate New York.
“I knew there was a ton of snow up there, and I thought to myself, ‘Why not make a Christmas Town?’ And so that’s what Holly, New York is. It’s a fictional town that celebrates Christmas.”
After conceptualizing Holly, the next component of the story Marcelo drew up was a bucket list of 10 things to do in Holly that Lila and her friend set out to complete. Then Marcelo created Lila — who, like Marcelo, is a firstborn — and her big family.
Lila’s love interest, Teddy, came next.
“Lila came to me fully fleshed,” she said. “A responsible child who wanted to do the right thing. For her to meet somebody and for somebody else to change her, it would have to be somebody who is a strong personality also. But totally different because it couldn’t be somebody that could that would immediately do what she says.”
Marcelo said she also accomplished another goal in writing her first YA novel because it’s also a Christmas novel — another type of book she had always wanted to write, in part because of how important the season and holiday is to her family.
She said she incorporated a lot of her own family traditions into the Christmas scene in the story, such as noche buenabefore the opening of the first presents from family members, the unwrapping of everyone’s presents on Christmas morning, and then karaoke.
Marcelo said she hopes readers will have two takeaways from The Holiday Switch.
One is that it’s always possible to change your mind.
“Lila just thought that she could no longer change her mind. And I remember being at that age, jumping into college and thinking, ‘I have to make this decision. I can’t change my major,'” she said. “You can always change your mind.”
The second is to be open to a switch, because those can lead to surprising outcomes.
In the month since the book’s release, among the most positive feedback Marcelo said she has received for her book has come from her 11-year-old daughter, who was the first of her four children to finish reading the novel.
“She told me, ‘I finished your book and I really loved it. It’s so good,'” she said. “[That’s] the biggest compliment.”
Marcelo has also received feedback that Holiday Switch has a Hallmark movie-like feel.
“I’m so proud of this novel. The fact that the main character is Filipino American with a big, chaotic, Filipino family, and then her love interest is Filipino American as well, it just gives me like so much joy,” she said.
“I’m hoping that it resonates with Filipino Americans and non-Filipino Americans,” she added. “To be able to see a small town Hallmark type story with diverse characters, I think it’s neat.”