Dear Ms. Shea,
Because you are seeking to represent realistic YA novels
with raw psychological grittiness and also coming-of-age stories, I believe you
may be interested in my Contemporary Young Adult novel, Outside In (complete at 52,000 words).
Super-brain Alexis likes everything exactly so. Perfect prep
school grades. School supplies arranged eight inches apart in parallel lines.
Timed phone calls with her mother. Scheduled hook-ups with her boyfriend Ben on
Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. As long as her secret self-destructive
streak is hidden, all is well.
But then Alexis receives a bright red B on an English paper, and endures an excruciating break-up with no
explanation. And now parallel cuts run down her leg an inch apart, one for each
day since Ben broke up with her. She bangs her head, burns herself--anything to
soothe herself and assert some control.
When her friend Miranda accidentally glimpses her scars,
Alexis feels even more trapped. Now she must survive weekly therapy sessions
with a counselor, forced disclosure to her parents, and worst of all: dismissal
from school if she doesn’t get better. It’s up to Alexis to pull herself out of
the mire--if she even wants to.
As an educator and a teacher consultant for the National
Writing Project, I know how much the stories of others can speak to teenagers
trying to make sense of their own lives. Although there have been other novels
about cutting (for example, Patricia McCormick’s Cut and Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars),
Outside In examines the correlation
between perfectionism and self-harm, a survival mechanism for intense pressure.
I am a member of several critique groups and also SCBWI.
A bright red B. Oh
my G**. My lowest grade ever.
I rubbed my cheek as hard as I could and stuffed the paper
into my binder. I didn’t bother to check the comments--plenty of time to
memorize those later.
My throat closed up and I couldn’t draw a full breath. One
full grade less than an A. My G.P.A.
would sink. Miranda would pass me in class rank.
What would my mother
The bell rang, and Miranda and I headed to the door. Once we
were in the hallway, she burst out, “I got an A! What about you?”
“Mmm,” I said, half-nodding.
She prattled on about her comments and each word stabbed at
I couldn’t listen to her any longer, and escaped to the
bathroom. I made it to the safety of a stall before the dam burst and the tears
Why didn’t I work harder? I didn’t deserve an A anyway. Dummy, lazy, fat moron.
I jerked my left sleeve up. A paper clip would do, one of
those big ones in my English binder. I uncurled the clip, molding the metal
into a straight line. When my sleeve was up all the way, I scraped the clip
back and forth across my fat upper arm until beads of blood popped up.
It wasn’t enough. I scraped four more times, changing the
line into an angular B.
Shame on my body now too. The scratches would burn and
remind me what I’d done. Exactly what I deserved.