What do you get when you mix dating with refugee camps, freedom fighters, and a thousand pairs of googly eyes?
Collin Uttley’s summer vacation.
Honestly, I didn’t set out to be an imposter. I just wanted to meet girls. Why else would an atheist join a church youth group? (It sure wasn’t for the coffee.) And it paid off—I met Shelby Wanderal, the soul mate I never knew existed. When I found out she was spending her summer working with orphans in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border—guess who joined the outreach team? And you better believe I didn’t let a little thing like the Expected Behavior Guidelines cramp my style. Not even Rule #1: "No romantic entanglements allowed." But I gotta admit I didn’t expect a rival—my summer would have gone a whole lot smoother if Twain Abernathy had stayed home.
Or if I hadn’t tried the betel nut.
Or if I’d listened to the advice of the Freedom Fighters.
Or if—nope, you’ll just have to read the story of my crazytown adventure… people say it makes them laugh. I’m just not sure if that means with me or at me.
From the author of CARPE DIEM comes another YA romantic comedy adventure set in Southeast Asia, NEVER SORRY EVER JOLLY, based on her own outreach experiences in Thailand and Burma.
Praise for Autumn’s first novel:
“This is self-confessed travel junkie Autumn Cornwell's first novel—and she's hit one out of the park.”
―The Washington Post
“Suspenseful and wonderfully detailed, the well-crafted story maintains its page-turning pace while adding small doses of cultural insight and humor.”
―School Library Journal, Starred Review
ALL HE WANTED WAS A DATE.
In the new faith-based YA romantic comedy adventure, NEVER SORRY EVER JOLLY, homeschooled and unchurched seventeen-year-old Collin Uttley moves to SoCal (Southern California) and joins a church youth group out of sheer desperation for a social life. To fit in with the rest of the high schoolers and to increase his odds of scoring a girlfriend, he pretends to be a “believer” and attends every single group activity—even blindfold dodge ball. His tenacity soon pays off when he meets the girl of his dreams, Shelby Wanderal, who shares his enthusiasm for vintage clothing and swing dancing. When Collin finds out Shelby’s going on a summer outreach trip to help refugees on the Thailand-Burma border, he fakes his way onto the team, thinking it’s the perfect opportunity to win her over. However, things don’t go exactly as planned… to say the least.
Want to read an excerpt?
A MESSAGE FROM COLLIN UTTLEY
A heads up: I don’t exactly come across as a hero in this narrative. But the Tacketts told me I should write it up because the “transparency and vulnerability” would be “powerful and freeing.”
Jack-O said I should share it because it would make people laugh, but he didn’t clarify if that meant with me or at me. And the rest of the Team said it would be kind of inspiring—that is, if it didn’t freak readers out. (My brothers said it would show you what not to do. Thanks, guys.)
So, here you go. Enjoy the ride—even if you don’t believe any of this kind of stuff could actually happen.
I get it.
I was once in your shoes…
NEVER SORRY EVER JOLLY
A Little Backstory
Although NEVER SORRY EVER JOLLY is primarily a romantic comedy adventure, the backdrop of this story was very loosely based on outreach trips my husband and I led to Southeast Asia over the years, specifically the times we spent in Thailand and Burma/Myanmar beginning in 2004. The various groups depicted in the novel are fictionalized versions of real life counterparts, including the "Katin," who were inspired by the Karen people group (I actually borrowed their language for the novel) and other ethnic religious minority groups living in Burma and Thailand. We first became aware of the plight of the Karen people when we began sponsoring a Karen child in the late 1990s. During our first outreach trip we were able to meet him face to face in his refugee camp -- talk about a life-changing opportunity!
Additionally, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the Free Burma Rangers, and various other brave souls we encountered during our time across the border provided ample material for the fictional Freedom Fighters For a Free Burma (FFFFB/Feebs), who courageously defended their people against the brutality of the Burmese totalitarian dictatorship. And the nefarious Burmese Military Junta (BMJ) was based on the Burmese (oh, so ironically named) State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Some location names and places were changed as well—for example, the Moei River along the border of Thailand and Burma became "the Murk," and Mae La Refugee Camp and other smaller camps combined to become "Yai Camp."
The courage, faith, and joy of our Karen friends in the face of ongoing persecution blew me away. It was an absolute honor to sit cross-legged on bamboo matting, listening to their stories and sharing their rice. Sadly, the civil war between the Burmese military and the ethnic and religious minorities like the Karen continues to this day, despite repeated attempts at “ceasefires.” Although there have been many positive breakthroughs in recent years, there’s still much more to be done to bring political, personal, and religious freedom to Burma and other parts of Southeast Asia. It’ll take a miracle. (But I happen to believe in miracles—do you?)
Also, all the main characters' "spiritual adventures" were either experienced by me or someone I knew. (Except for one monumental event in particular -- which was completely fictional, although I do believe could really happen. And I've heard that people have seen it happen elsewhere in the world. If you've read the book, you know exactly what crazytown story I'm talking about!)
Anyway, as you probably are guessing, I enjoy fictionalizing the adventures in my life -- whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or creative. And I enjoy discussing them. So if you have any questions about NEVER SORRY EVER JOLLY, pop over to the contact page and write them up or DM me on Instagram. I'd love to hear from you!