Maggie Horne on Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One and real-world books for early teens

Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One by Maggie Horne. Book cover and author photo.


This month our Macaw subscribers have chosen between two books both starring hugely relatable lead characters, one of which is the inimitable Hazel Hill in Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One. The book was an extremely easy pick for our subscription boxes, perfectly pitched for a tween or young teen audience. Set in a real-world high school, it explores an issue absolutely critical to young people today in a way that is sensitive but not at all patronising. We loved it and we know our subscribers will too! Here author Maggie Horne tells us about how the book mirrors her own experience growing up and which books for tweens and early teens she would recommend you read next.

What inspired you to write Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One?

Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One was largely inspired by my own experiences with sexual harassment when I was Hazel’s age. I wanted to write a story that talked about what me and my friends dealt with, but that was also funny and about friendship and the way girls can do so much to help each other.

Are any of the characters or elements of the story based on real people or events?

Yes! Ella Quinn’s experience closely mirrors my own, and, like the girls in the book, I also went to a school where one of the teachers threw a chair when he got angry – I actually have had people ask why that’s just thrown into the book and not made into a bigger deal, and it’s because that’s exactly how it happened in my school! While the experiences were based on some of my own, the book itself is definitely its own story.

What do you hope young readers will take away from the story and how it unfolds?

It can be super awkward and embarrassing and weird to grow up and figure new things out and decide what kind of person you want to be. I hope that through reading Hazel growing and changing over the course of the book, young readers can give themselves a bit of grace while they do the same.

How do you think you would have coped and what would you have done in Hazel’s position?

I was the type of person to pretend like nothing bothered me when I was Hazel’s age, so when people made comments to me like Tyler does to Ella, I always tried to out-smart or out-snark them. It didn’t make me feel any better, but I also hated the thought of them thinking they’d had any kind of impact on me. When things escalated, I did end up going to my principal’s office and, thankfully unlike Hazel, I was immediately believed and the boys were suspended.

Can you tell us anything about what the future holds for Hazel and her friends?

This is such a fun question!! I think, in general, you can trust that there are plenty of sleepovers (no fashion shows, though), pancake nights, and a solid dose of healthy competition between Hazel and Ella Quinn – someone has to win next year’s speech contest, after all!

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

I think that when I was this age, I remember feeling a little frustrated that books I was reading were still talking to me like I was a really little kid. In reality, I didn’t feel like a little kid, and a lot of people in my life weren’t treating me like one either. That’s not really the case in middle grade anymore, but I still wanted to write something that I think 12-year-old me would have appreciated reading.

Do you have a favourite place to write?

I write anywhere and everywhere! I have a toddler, so while I do have a nice desk and workspace, it’s not always possible to sit there for long periods of time, and sometimes I’m writing on my phone in fits and starts. My favourite place to write is basically wherever the words are coming easily!!

Which other books for this age group with relatable characters would you recommend our subscribers read next?

Jake Maia Arlow’s Almost Flying, Katryn Bury’s Drew LeClair Gets a Clue, and the upcoming Skating on Mars by Caroline Huntoon!!

Copies of our Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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