I’ve been given permission to share the official plot summary for my next YA novel, ALL THE RAGE, which comes out April 15th, 2015 from St. Martin’s Press. I have talked a lot about writing the book (in fact, you can read more about that process here), without actually saying what exactly the book is about. This part is always a bit nerve-wracking.
Here it is:
In her hardcover debut, from the author of Cracked Up To Be and This is Not a Test, comes a powerful new young adult novel.
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything–friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time–and they certainly won’t now–but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.
With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, ALL THE RAGE examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?
You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.
By Jessica Love
PUSH GIRL, co-written with Chelsie Hill from Sundance Channel’s hit reality TV show Push Girls, follows high school senior and talented dancer Kara Moore who is faced with the struggles and triumphs of adjusting to life on two wheels after a drunk driving accident leaves her paralyzed.
When I sat down to work on PUSH GIRL, I really wanted to get it RIGHT. It’s a book about a girl with a disability, which was not something I had a lot of experience with at the time I started writing it, but it was something I took very seriously, and I very much wanted it to be authentic. I wanted it to be realistic; I didn’t want it to feel trite or fake or wrong. So I started doing research into disability and the daily life of people who use wheelchairs. I talked to my co-writer Chelsie a lot, obviously. But I also talked to other people. I watched a LOT of YouTube videos. I read websites and blogs and articles. And the main thing that I came away with is that everyone’s experience with being in a wheelchair is so, so different.
This is a pretty obvious statement, I know, but it’s something I really had trouble reconciling in my mind because I so wanted this book to “get it right.” And by getting it right for one reader, that would mean getting it completely wrong for another. The person who uses a power chair has a completely different experience than the person who uses a manual chair. The person who was born with her disability has a completely different experience from someone who was born able-bodied and then was in a car accident. The person who uses a wheelchair because of paralysis has a completely different experience from someone who uses it for any other number of reasons. How could I possibly make sure that all of these wheelchair users saw themselves in this one book?
Obviously I couldn’t.
And this was tough to wrap my head around. When it comes to stories about able-bodied characters, there are SO MANY that there isn’t that same pressure to “get it right” for every person because, well, if this one particular book doesn’t match the experience of a certain reader, there are thousands of others that probably will. They have countless other places they can seek themselves out on the page. But with so few books featuring main characters with disabilities, I felt tremendous pressure for this book to be all things to all people. I felt weighed down with the disappointment of all of the readers who would be hoping that this would be the book that finally showed who they were and then…it didn’t.
I felt like a failure already, and I had hardly even written a word.
It took me a long time, because I’m a people pleaser by nature and because I didn’t take on the task of writing about disability lightly, but I finally had to let go of this and remember that PUSH GIRL is a fictionalized version of Chelsie’s story. I had to accept that Chelsie’s story is not everyone’s story, and it can’t be. We just had to work together to tell THIS story in the best, most authentic way that we could instead of diluting it in an attempt to be everything to everyone. So I turned to Chelsie, I put my focus on the particular story we were trying to tell, and I tried my best to be true to her experience.
In the end, I’m proud of this book. And I’m proud that Chelsie is proud of it as well. I know that not everyone is going to see themselves in Kara’s story. I know some people will feel like we got it wrong, or say “that’s not how it is, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” I’m truly sorry if the book lets people down or doesn’t feel like it speaks to their experience. I really am. I spent sleepless nights panicking about it. But what I really learned while writing this book is how very different everyone’s experience is, and the key is to find the universal elements and focus on those. Those common threads that tie all of us together.
Hopefully, some time in the near future, there will be as many books featuring characters with disabilities as there are people with disabilities, and everyone will be able to point to a book on the shelf and say “Yes, this one gets me.” Until then, I hope I keep learning and trying to get it right and growing as much as I can along the way. And I truly hope that there is at least one person who sees herself in Kara, and in Chelsie.Jessica Love is a middle school English teacher who lives in Southern California with her husband and their two tiny dogs. She’s working on her Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Spalding University, and her big love is contemporary YA romance. Jessica spends all of her free money on concerts, constantly tries to prove that blondes have more fun, and is pretty much always on the internet. PUSH GIRL is out June 3, 2014 and IN REAL LIFE is coming in 2015.
PUSH GIRL, by Chelsie Hill and Jessica Love, is out on Tuesday! #WeNeedDiverseBooks is still fresh on our minds, so it’s a pleasure to showcase a book that represents characters with disabilities, as well as a racially diverse cast. Ladies, thank you for participating!
YA Series Insiders: If you were going to write a spin-off about one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Chelsie/Jessica: If there was going to be a spin-off to PUSH GIRL, it would have to be about Ana, the younger girl Kara meets at physical therapy. I love Ana - she has had this terrible, tragic thing happen to her, but she has such a positive attitude about it. There’s a lot more to her than her smile and positivity, though, and I think her story would make a great spin-off, maybe a MG novel. She has issues with her dad, which she hints about in PUSH GIRL, and there would be a lot to explore in that relationship.
YASI: What scene made you cry while you were writing?
C/J: It didn’t make me cry while I was writing it, but when I was going through the book for copy edits I got to the scene where Kara snaps at her friends Jack and Amanda and they get in a fight and I stopped checking for copy edits and I found myself just reading it like a reader. And then I found myself crying! As if I hadn’t been the one to actually write the scene! I really got caught up in Kara’s emotional journey and I was invested in her friendships, and it really surprised me that I could get so emotional over a disagreement that I had crafted myself!
YASI: What is the core thing in your book? The one thing you would never in a million years have given up no matter how much money someone paid you?
C/J: There are a lot of things about PUSH GIRL that are important to me. When brainstorming the supporting cast, it was important to me to make them all as diverse as possible. The book takes place in California, and it just wouldn’t be realistic if there wasn’t some racial diversity in the cast of characters. It’s not the core thing, but I guess since the book does center around a character whose story doesn’t often get told, I wanted to make sure that representation spread out through the rest of the novel.
About the book
Kara is a high school junior who’s loving life. She’s popular, has a great group of friends and an amazing boyfriend, and she’s a shoe-in for homecoming queen. Even though her parents can’t stop fighting and her ex-boyfriend can’t seem to leave her alone, Kara won’t let anything get in the way of her perfect year. It’s Friday night, and Kara arrives at a party, upset after hearing her parents having another one of their awful fights, and sees another girl with her hands all over her boyfriend. Furious, Kara leaves to take a drive, and, as she’s crossing an intersection, a car comes out of nowhere and slams into the driver’s side of Kara’s car.
When Kara wakes up, she has no memory of the night before. Where is she? Why are her parents crying? And, most importantly — why can’t she feel her legs? As Kara is forced to adjust to her new life, where her friends aren’t who they seemed to be and her once-adoring boyfriend is mysteriously absent, she starts to realize that what matters in life isn’t what happens to you — it’s the choices you make and the people you love.
Co-written by “Push Girls” star Chelsie Hill, whose real life closely mirrors Kara’s experience, this novel will open the eyes of readers everywhere who have never met someone who lives with paralysis.
About the Authors
Chelsie Hill, one of the stars of the SundanceTV’s series Push Girls, was a high school senior when she was driven home by a friend who had been drinking. Their SUV veered off the road and crashed into a tree, snapping Chelsie’s back and paralyzing her from the waist down. She and her father went on to establish a nonprofit foundation, The Walk and Roll Foundation, to aid people with spinal cord injuries.
Jessica Love is a middle school English teacher who lives in Southern California with her husband and their two tiny dogs. She’s working on her Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Spalding University, and her big love is contemporary YA romance. Jessica spends all of her free money on concerts, constantly tries to prove that blondes have more fun, and is pretty much always on the internet.
Tune in tomorrow for our full interview with Jessica Love, co-author of PUSH GIRL.