Alexandria Rizik prides herself on having a creative mind.
As an author of two previous works - a poetry book titled “Words Written in the Dark” and a children’s book titled” Chocolate Milk”- her latest displays her versatility as a creative writer.
"21 Questions" takes place in Laguna Beach, California, and is centered around a 16-year-old girl named Kendra Dimes who finds herself struggling with anxiety after losing her brother to a drug overdose.
She discovers what helps her cope with her grief is surfing competitively and the comfort she finds in her romantic interest, Brock Parker.
It is later revealed that Brock is the son of drug dealers and is struggling with the internal conflict of how to keep his parents happy while striving for a life of normalcy with Kendra.
The book reaches a climax when an accident puts the couple’s future in jeopardy and leaves readers on the edge of their seat until the last page.
Though Rizik is no stranger to having published works, "21 Questions" explores her personal side.
“The idea behind the book stemmed from my own breakup when I was seventeen. My ex-boyfriend’s family were very reserved, private people and I thought they were kind of weird,” she said.
“Being a writer with such a wild imagination, I concocted this story that they were drug dealers. In hindsight, I sound crazy, but it made for a good storyline,” she said with a laugh. “Some of the scenes and most of the friendships in the book were inspired by real events and people as well.”
Though Rizik resides in Scottsdale and is an alumnus of Arizona State University, she wanted to set the book in a place she has fond memories of.
“Every year, my family goes to Laguna Beach for the summer and there’s something so magical and inspiring about Laguna,” Rizik said. “I wanted to set the story on a beach, and I knew Laguna Beach was the perfect place.”
As for the plot, Rizik knew she was taking a risk by writing about tough topics but felt that the story would strike a chord with readers who were dealing with heartbreak or loss.
“21 Questions deals with a lot of heavy topics, but I wanted something that reflects what teenagers go through in real life,” Rizik said.
She also hopes that her own experiences will offer some sort of a catharsis for readers.
“I’ve dealt with my own anxiety and have learned to manage it, so that’s where Kendra’s symptoms stem from,” she said. “I think everyone has been affected by drugs and addiction in one way or another—whether it be personally or someone you care about. There have been a few people I love that have suffered from addiction and it’s hard to watch.”
Aside from her personal experience, Rizik hopes that readers find a way to connect with the main characters.
“These characters are beautifully flawed and real, and I wanted to display their issues and insecurities in a raw way,” She said.
She also wants the readers to take away a message from seeing the characters grow through their struggles.
“As humans we’re always changing and evolving, so I hope the readers take away that it’s always okay to begin again. You make mistakes and you grow from them,” Rizik said.
"21 Questions" hits shelves Aug. 3, and a virtual release event at Changing Hands Bookstore will be broadcasted over Zoom on Aug. 5 at 6 p.m.
Beyond this release, Rizik has big plans for her latest literary work.
“I’m currently working on the sequel to 21 Questions, titled 21 Confessions and I’d love to adapt these into a series for Netflix,” She said.
She also has another novel and screenplay in the works as well but for the time being she is excited to see how the book is received.
“This book is something so near and dear to my heart. It feels like a dream that it’s finally being published,” She said. “I can’t wait for everyone to read it.”