LITTLE JAGGED EDGES
(young adult realistic fiction)
High school senior Lily Mallory’s life is a mess. Her brother Josh’s Asperger’s seems worse than ever, her mother is reeling after her recent divorce, and her sheltered New York private school suddenly feels tiny and suffocating. And with college acceptances looming ahead, nothing in her life feels secure.
Lily’s obsessions over food grow more intense. She plans every calorie she consumes in a hidden notebook, and sneaks into the kitchen late at night to binge and purge. She exercises obsessively and scrutinizes herself in the mirror, hating what she sees. Her world shrinks, slowly at first, as she falls into the isolation and punishing cycles of anorexia and bulimia.
When a scathing article features Lily and her boyfriend Ben, everyone at school — including her best friends Eloise and Helen — shun her. Desperate for a friend, Lily turns to personal and vulnerable journal exchanges with her young English teacher, Greta Jacobs. The two quickly form a bond over a shared love of books, and then over their negative body images. As their unhealthy relationship grows, it morphs into something mutually damaging. Instead of helping her, Lily’s friendship with Greta only pushes Lily further into her disease.
Eventually Lily must see Greta for who she really is. Me and the Mirror Girl is the story of a young woman who ultimately must find herself, even as she actively tries to disappear.
At its heart, Me and the Mirror Girl explores one of the hardest lessons of growing up: the moment when one realizes that the trusted adults in her life are, like her, flawed. Ultimately Lily finds strength in imperfection and the most unlikely source: herself.
GUNNING FOR NOAH
(middle grade realistic fiction)
Eleven-year-old Noah is a boy filled with contrasts: he loves language, wordplay and old school rap music. He is fascinated by military strategy and the history of weapons, but he organized and led his school’s rally against gun violence. He’s bright beyond his years and has an impressive vocabulary, but he also goes to sleep cuddling with his impressive collection of “Stufties.”
Noah’s struggle with generalized anxiety disorder is complicated, too, especially when it manifests itself in rigidity and defiance. Thank goodness for his understanding fifth-grade teacher and supportive parents.
But when Noah dresses up as a soldier for Halloween and his mom posts a picture of him–holding a toy gun– on Facebook, the community reacts. Irate parents call the school authorities, worried that Noah’s history with mental illness and interest in guns makes him dangerous. His friends stop inviting him over to play, and even his parents worry that perhaps they have been too lenient about letting Noah pursue his unusual interests.
Told from several different points of view, Gunning for Noah chronicles a liberal suburban community’s myriad reactions to the incident. Moreover, the novel explores the way mental illness and gun violence are– perhaps unfairly– conflated at a time when school shootings are a terrifying American reality. It’s the story of one boy saddled with the fear of a nation at a time of political turmoil and deep idealogical divides. And it’s the story of a young boy trying to figure out who he is — and what’s worth fighting for.
Gunning for Noah is a work in progress, with a finished draft completed in early 2019.
(middle grade, in progress. In response to the October 27 shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. #NaNoWriMo 2018)
Zoe is in sixth grade and almost thirteen, and as many in her city of Newton, Massachusetts know, that can only mean one thing: she is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. Her family has never been that Jewish — sure, they celebrate on the big holidays and look forward to their annual Chanukah latkes, but mostly it seems like their brand of Judaism isn’t a big part of their everyday lives. In fact, if it weren’t for her Nana’s stories and her dedication to making homemade gefilte fish, Zoe and her brothers might not have much of a Jewish identity at all.
At first Zoe’s Bat Mitzvah preparation is just another chore. But when her family’s synagogue is the target of an anti-Semitic attack, she starts to pay attention to the myriad ways anti-Semitism still swirl around — even in her own community. Nana’s recollections of her mother’s stories from 1930s Germany feel more realistic than they used to. And a lot more possible.
Recalling what she’s learned about Tikkun Olam, or “Repairing the World,” Zoe decides that her Mitzvah project would combat anti-Semitism. Being Jewish suddenly feels a lot more important than memorizing Hebrew text and deciding who will DJ her upcoming celebration. All of a sudden, being Jewish feels central to her identity.
Unsure of how to begin, she starts with her Nana. She asks questions and listens to the answers. But can one girl do anything to repair a world that feels like it’s fracturing all around her?
Zoe knows she can help– she just doesn’t know how. But she’s determined to find a way to do something for her heartbroken congregation, and just maybe, for the whole country.
* I must admit that I too am curious as to what Zoe comes up with. I’m sure she’ll tell me eventually, when she figures it out.