Sometimes it pays to have a little attitude.
So says Brooklyn resident Mila Bernadkin, who penned the award-winning book, “The Attitude Girl.”
“‘The Attitude Girl’ is an inspirational novel for young adults and their parents. It’s jam-packed with drama, emotional conflict, growing pains, trials and tribulations, romance and humor,” said Bernadkin, who lives near Kings Highway and Ocean Avenue.
Bernadkin offered details about the plot, which she notes is not inspired by her daughter, a graduate student in Brooklyn.
“The book follows a materialistic and outspoken Victoria Benson on her rocky road into adulthood as she struggles with real problems, issues and obstacles that fate brings into her young life along the way — financial setbacks, bullying, first love, idealism, loss and forgiveness,” the author explained. “Everyone thinks that Vicky has an attitude problem but in her eyes — she’s just being realistic and speaks the plain truth. If people can’t handle it, well, it’s their problem.”
Bernadkin got the idea for the book while taking a writing class.
“I started the book as part of my assignment when I was a student at the Institute of Children’s Literature,” she said. “I always wanted to write for young adults. So when I had to start, it was a given that it would be a coming-of-age story. The characters were just popping up in my head. I imagined what they looked like and named them. I created the characters and their personalities, and then I started to hear them speak; I knew what they were thinking and feeling. I lived and breathed along with my characters. It was like a movie playing in my head. And then, after the course was over, I just kept on writing. I couldn’t stop.”
The main character, Victoria Benson, was inspired by many teenagers.
“Vicky is a collective character, a composite. Most of her traits come from real-life teens that I observed and had to deal with,” the author explained. “Most young adults, unfortunately, are selfish and materialistic, especially young girls. And attitude is a big issue.”
Bernadkin also infused her own traits into the protagonist.
“There is a lot of me in Vicky. I love to write, and so does Vicky. I used to edit my school’s newspaper, and so does she. I’m as outspoken as Vicky is and always say what needs to be said. Just like Vicky, I always stand by my principals and fight for what I believe in. I always analyze things, just like Vicky does, and some thoughts that she has and questions she asks come from me. The difference between Vicky and I is unlike her, I am not selfish. I’m extremely generous and love to give more than to receive.”
Born and raised in Odessa, Ukraine, Bernadkin has happily settled in Brooklyn — and says she is inspired by life in the borough.
“What I like the most about Brooklyn is diversity,” she said. “There are so many immigrants from all around the world — different countries and cultures. People speak so many native languages and when they speak English, it’s with such multicolored accents. Oh, and the variety of cuisine! You can learn new things and get a new experience every day.”
Brighton Beach reminds her of home.
“I love Brighton Beach. I was born and raised in Odessa, a beautiful resort city on the Black Sea. I adore it so Brighton Beach is the next best thing,” Bernadkin said.
Bernadkin is most happy writing and hopes both teens and adults will learn from “The Attitude Girl.”
“There is a chapter in ‘The Attitude Girl’ entitled ‘The Twenty Commandments for Living.’ It’s a stand-alone chapter that sends a message to young people on how to behave and what to remember, and gives them some tips and pointers. So they’ll have to read the book to find out what they are,” Bernadkin said.
She also tells teens, “Respect your parents and treat them right because you won’t get another set; they’re the only ones you’ve got! Respect your friends and always treat people the way you want them to treat you. Remember: what goes around comes around.”
“The Attitude Girl” has already won several awards.
“When my manuscript for ‘The Attitude Girl’ made it to the finals in the Arizona Authors Association Annual Literary Awards contest, I felt like I really had something, but when they informed me that it won first place, I realized that I really had something good. That win resulted in a publishing contract with Five Star Publications and it gave me a sense of achievement and accomplishment,” Bernadkin said.
“When I attended Book Expo America last summer and saw my book on display for the first time, I couldn’t believe it! And then, seeing people patiently standing in line waiting for me to sign the books was out of this world! It was the first time I felt proud of myself. I felt like I mattered in some way,” she continued.
Just a few weeks ago, Bernadkin was named a first place winner in the Teenage/Young Adult category for the “The Attitude Girl” at the 2009 London Book Festival.
“This is a prestigious international award,” the author said. “I still can’t believe it! I keep telling myself, ‘The book must be good. They can’t be wrong twice, can they?’ It’s hard to describe what I feel. I feel pride, joy and confidence. I’m overwhelmed! Wow!”