De la Cruz, Melissa 1971-

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De la Cruz, Melissa 1971-

Personal

Born 1971, in Manila, Philippines; married Michael Hoch Johnston, October, 2002. Education: Columbia University, B.A. (English and art history).

Addresses

Agent—Richard Abate, International Creative Management, 40 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Journalist and author. Computer programmer for an investment bank in NJ and in New York, NY; Morgan Stanley, New York, NY, senior consultant until 2001; Hint (online magazine), cofounder, senior fashion editor, and columnist, beginning 1998. Formerly worked as a child model.

Writings

YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS

The Au Pairs, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Fresh off the Boat, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.

The Au Pairs: Skinny-dipping, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.

The Au Pairs: Sun-kissed, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.

Blue Bloods, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.

Angels on Sunset Boulevard, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.

The Au Pairs: Crazy Hot, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.

Masquerade (sequel to Blue Bloods), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.

OTHER

Cat's Meow (adult novel), illustrated by Kim de Marco, Scribner's (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Karen Robinovitz) How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Karen Robinovitz) The Fashionista Files: Adventures in Four-Inch Heels and Faux Pas, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor with Tom Dolby) Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys: True Tales of Love, Lust, and Friendship between Straight Women and Gay Men, Dutton (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to anthologies, including Mistletoe, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2006; and 21 Proms, edited by David Levithan and Dan Ehrenhaft, Scholastic, 2007. Contributor to periodicals, including Allure, New York Times, Marie Claire, CosmoGirl, San Francisco Chronicle, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Glamour, Feed, McSweeneys, Hamptons Country, Nerve, and Manhattan Style.

Sidelights

A computer programmer-turned-journalist whose articles have appeared in magazines such as Glamour, Allure, and Seventeen, Melissa De la Cruz is also the author of novels for older teens and twentysomethings that tap into the trendy materialism and interest in celebrity that characterize modern American popular culture. Initially focusing on an adult readership with Cat's Meow, De la Cruz has more recently won a loyal following among teen readers with her "Au Pairs" series about a group of teens who work and play in the affluent Hamptons during the summer months. In addition to her "Au Pairs" novels, she also moves into the horror genre with Blue Bloods, and tells an edgy contemporary story in Angels on Sunset Boulevard. Praised as a "witty, trendy, coming-of-age story" by a Kirkus Reviews writer, De la Cruz's Fresh off the Boat also brings a new perspective to teen culture through the story of fourteen-year-old Philippine teen Vicenza and her efforts to fit in with her peers at an exclusive prep school in San Francisco.

Living something of a celebrity lifestyle herself, De la Cruz also tantalizes readers with chronicles of her own experiences in the world of the well-heeled and well- connected in books such as The Fashionista Files: Adventures in Four-Inch Heels and Faux Pas, and How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less, the latter coauthored with fellow journalist Karen Robinovitz.

De la Cruz found material for her first novel, Cat's Meow, in both her own life and the lives of those she has written about as a fashion journalist. The novel's protagonist, Cat McAllister, was a child actress, just as De la Cruz once was; and Cat's dreams of socialite celebrity reflect those the author recalls from her own childhood. In pursuit of a wealthy husband to help bolster her status among the New York social aristocracy—and to pay her mounting credit card bills—De la Cruz's pragmatic protagonist starts by throwing herself her fourth twenty-fifth birthday party and quickly adopts a Chinese orphan as a status symbol. When her money runs out and she loses her apartment, Cat is forced to look for work. Good fortune finally strikes when she finds a job at a fashion Web site (De la Cruz is an editor at an online fashion magazine) that sends her to runway shows in Paris and other posh locales. As a Publishers Weekly critic suggested of Cat's Meow, "society page addicts will no doubt enjoy its irreverent spin on the glamorous life."

The first young-adult novel by De la Cruz, The Au Pairs and its sequels were inspired by the vacations De la Cruz and her husband took in the Hamptons, a resort area frequented by wealthy Manhattan residents. "It is a magical place and a kind of over-the-top environment that was perfect for my kind of writing," the author told a Teen Reads online interviewer. "I love stories about social-climbing and outrageous behavior, and I wanted to show the Upstairs/Downstairs world. Also, a friend of ours who is a true blue Hamptonite told me about the ‘hot nanny/au pair’ phenomenon in the Hamptons, how these girls who worked there for the summer were the most-wanted girls in town … they had these crazy, glamorous lives even though they were babysitters."

In The Au Pairs readers meet Eliza, Mara, and Jacqui. Coming from different backgrounds—stuck-up Eliza hails from upstate New York, selfish and beautiful Jacqui is from Brazil, and Mara is a socially naïve, working-class girl from Massachusetts—the three teens have been hired to take care of the four spoiled offspring of the wealthy Perrys at the family's summer home in the Hamptons. Over the course of the summer, romance takes precedence over work, as Mara dates the dishy Ryan Perry and Jacqui pursues the handsome Luke. While noting that the teen sex, drug use, and celebrity will win The Au Pairs instant appeal for teen readers, Amanda MacGregor noted in Kliatt that De la Cruz's "strong writing and interesting characters help set this book apart."

Skinny-Dipping continues the "Au Pairs" saga, as Mara and Jacqui return to baby-sit the Perry children. Eliza, who is now dating Ryan, has found a interning position at the resort's popular Seventh Circle nightclub. Ro-

mantic conflicts soon erupt, when Mara attempts to rekindle her romance with Ryan, and handsome French-born Philippe, Eliza's replacement au pair, attracts both Jacqui and Jacqui's employer, Mrs. Perry. In Sun-kissed the girls are spending their last summer before college, and Jacqui alone remains with the Perrys, hoping the couple's fragile marriage will hold together until the summer is over. Mara works as a reporter for Hamptons magazine, and the ambitious Eliza signs on as an assistant for a fashion designer hoping to regain the limelight by wooing celebrity clients. In a review of Skinny-Dipping in School Library Journal, Michele Capozzella wrote that the "Au Pairs" series would appeal to fans of Zoey Deans "A-List" novels and Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" saga due to its focus on "high fashion, fabulous parties, unlimited alcohol, sex, and celebrities." "Designer labels and movie star names fall like hailstones," quipped Ilene Cooper, adding in her Booklist review that teens will find The Au Pairs and its sequels "hard to put down."

The dark side of family history is at the core of Blue Bloods, as De la Cruz introduces a group of rich Manhattan teens who have powers that extend beyond their good looks, family wealth, and social connections. Twins Mimi and Jack, intellectual Schuyler, and transplanted Texan Bliss are all students at Duchesne, a prestigious city school where the aggressive Mimi is at the top of the social pecking order. When the teens reach age fifteen, they also learn that they are immortal vampires who, in soul form, are reborn in a new infant body every generation. Now welcomed into the Conclave, a group led by the city's oldest vampire families, the teens learn the rules that allow them to remain undetected. They also feel invulnerable, until they realize that someone … or some thing … is deliberately targeting young vampires in a series of gruesome murders. "It's hard to resist a book that combines expensive clothes, modeling jobs, blood-sucking and even diary entries from a Mayflower vampire," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor of the novel. A Kirkus Reviews writer called Blue Bloods "a juicy, voyeuristic peek into the lives of rich Manhattanites," a peek that is continued in Masquerade.

Life in the fast-lane party culture of modern Los Angeles is the focus of Angels on Sunset Boulevard, as a dangerous cult, spawned by the internet party site TAP—short for The Angels' Practice—hosts wild parties that attract teens with their "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" theme. Taj and Nick are fans of TAP, as well as of Johnny Silver, Taj's boyfriend and the new rock musician the site is promoting. Then Johnny goes missing, without a trace, followed by Nick's younger sister and a host of other teens. Now Taj and Nick find themselves drawn into a cult where dark rituals and danger await. Noting the novel's entertainment value, School Library Journal contributor Corinda J. Humphrey explained that De la Cruz's story is a "commentary on followers versus leaders and the ease with which teens are influenced by peer pressure." A Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed Angels on Sunset Boulevard a "Faustian morality tale" "with a twist," and a Publishers Weekly critic predicted that young-adult readers "will … be haunted by the story's provocative themes" about teen culture in De la Cruz's page-turner.

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of The Au Pairs, p. 1833; April 15, 2005, Debbie Carton, review of Fresh off the Boat, p. 1447; May 15, 2006, Jennifer Mattson, review of Blue Bloods, p. 56.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2004, Karen Coats, review of The Au Pairs, p. 14; September, 2005, Karen Coats, review of Fresh off the Boat, p. 13; September, 2006, Karen Coats, review of Blue Bloods, p. 11.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2004, review of The Au Pairs, p. 535; March, 2005, review of Fresh off the Boat, p. 350; April 1, 2006, review of Blue Bloods, p. 344; March 1, 2007, review of Angels on Sunset Boulevard, p. 220.

Kliatt, September, 2005, Amanda MacGregor, review of The Au Pairs, p. 18; September, 2006, Stephanie Squicciarini, review of Fresh off the Boat, p. 21.

Library Journal, May 15, 2007, Anna Katterjohn, review of Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys: True Tales of Love, Lust, and Friendship between Straight Women and Gay Men, p. 103.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 12, 2001, Mark Rozzo, review of Cat's Meow, p. 10.

New York Magazine, July 30, 2001, Amy Larocca, "Smart Set: Melissa De la Cruz."

Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2001, review of Cat's Meow, p. 63; May 9, 2005, review of Fresh off the Boat, p. 72; June 5, 2006, review of Blue Bloods, p. 64; March 5, 2007, review of Angels on Sunset Boulevard, p. 62; March 26, 2007, review of Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, p. 76.

School Library Journal, June, 2004, Tracy Karbel, review of The Au Pairs, p. 136; April, 2005, Amy Patrick, review of Fresh off the Boat, p. 130; July, 2005, Michele Capozzella, review of Skinny-dipping, p. 101; June, 2006, Sharon Rawlins, review of Blue Bloods, and Jane Cronkhite, review of Sun-kissed, both p. 152; April, 2007, Corinda J. Humphrey, review of Angels on Sunset Boulevard, p. 130.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 2004, review of The Au Pairs, p. 293; August, 2005, Michelle Winship, review of Fresh off the Boat, p. 214; April, 2006, Vikki C. Terrile, review of Blue Bloods, p. 58.

ONLINE

Melissa De la Cruz Home Page,http://www.melissa-delacruz.com (May 15, 2007).

Teen Reads Web site,http://www.teenreads.com/ (July 1, 2005), interview with De la Cruz.

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