She's beautiful, smart, envied, and loved, but there is an entire world of pain, grief, loss, and depression boiling underneath all the perfection her peers adore. But the moment she chooses to make her reality transparent, that's when she starts to lose it all. That's when the head cheerleader loses her crown and becomes the object of her peers' ridicule. It is 1992, and Erica Cohen has lost both her loving parents in a fatal drunk-driving accident, and right after their deaths, she stumbles upon a family secret that threatens to destroy everything she knew about who she was and who she wants to be. With her entire world crumbling around her, she decides it's time to stop pretending. It's time to show the world her real face. But the truth can be ugly when the people around you aren't ready to face it. She doesn't care, though. No matter what the cost might be, Erica realizes it's time to face the brutal truth of her life whether her friends accept her or not. So, she transforms into a completely different person on the first day of her senior year of high school, and it sends her life into complete chaos. Bullied by her best friend and shunned by her football-star boyfriend, she realizes what real love isn't. Rejected by the rest of the school, she fights hard to find a small group of mutants who will accept her. This is where the bads seeds grow.
As I get closer to revealing Erica's secret she's tried so hard to hide, she learns a little bit more about her new boyfriend, Dylan's, own dark family secret. What happened in the cabin she's about to step into? It will change their lives forever.
All this time, Erica had been hiding her dark family secret from her new boyfriend, Dylan, but in this chapter, she starts to think he might also have a secret he's hiding about his own family. Is Roberta Mae Kennedy his own mother, or is it merely a coincidence? Erica simply can't sit still until she founds out who this mysterious Kennedy woman is.
Throughout my novel, I use Erica's journals as a way for her to work through her identity crisis, her suicidal thoughts, and all the unmentionable things happening. Each chapter has one, but if you purchase the book ... there's a bonus one hidden in plain sight. (P.S.—They are all included together at the back of the book.)
In this scene, Erica and Dylan go on their first date as official boyfriend and girlfriend, but it's not a typical date. Dylan has discovered that her parents' headstones have been installed, and he wants to surprise her. These aren't the typical headstones, though. They are extravagant replicas of many of Erica's most-treasured memories she shared with her mother and father. Though it doesn't necessarily give her any kind of closure, it does give her a safe spot that allows her to feel closer to the parents she loved so much.
While Erica's story is fictional, the experience is not. Many women and men stay quiet about their assault because of the pandora's box it attempts to open. It makes us vulnerable victims, and often times, we are accused of instigating or making up the crime. This happened to me as a child, and I know it's happened to others. As a matter of fact, you probably know at least one or two people with untold stories who were too frightened to tell the truth for fear of the lies that would result from it. There are, indeed, three truths: The one we experienced that we're afraid to tell; the one of the abuser who refuses to tell; and the one of the listener who might be afraid to listen. But somewhere in there lies the actual truth, and that's what we need to hear.
I had originally wrote this chapter differently, but as my publication date approached, I knew deep down inside I hadn't written Erica's sexual assault scene the way it deserved to be. So, I went back and tried to remember ... for everyone I knew that had been raped ... I tried to remember what it felt like to be victimized by someone's monstrous need to control, hurt, and abuse. The writing of this hit me deeper than I ever imagined, and as my tears flowed by the end of the scene, I knew I'd given her the story she needed.
I had originally written Erica's story as a screenplay, but over the years, I started to put the work in to turn into a novel. I wanted to show a girl who might be an unlikely candidate for suicide writing in a journal over the course of the novel. In the beginning, it starts out as a suicide note, then as her story progresses, she's working through those thoughts and finding ways to move forward in her life. I hope it can help anyone who's ever thought about suicide ... to see that once you deal with the thoughts themselves, that there is hope for a better life.
When we think of bullying, we don't typically think of our teachers as being the villains in the story, but they certainly can be! Though this story is set in the 1990s, today, being bullied by teachers happens to our children regularly. I wonder ... when will bullying ever be considered truly evil? It changes people, sometimes for the rest of their lives. More often than not, it's more negative than positive, and our society pays the price for the crimes of the bullies. We should be celebrating the good teachers and ridding our children of the ones who treat them badly,
To the outsiders, Erica led the perfect life and had everything everyone else wanted, but after her parents' deaths, she would have given it all back to have one last moment with them. And she certainly tried, but no matter how angry she got, she was still left alone with her pain and that increasing anger. Later, she will decide to live for them because they no longer can, but in this one moment ... she's so angry all she knows to do is lash out and judge the people who don't belong in her nightmare.
In the midst of the darkness, finding a little pinpoint of light is sometimes hard, but it can change our world tremendously when we finally find it. While she didn't want to rely on another human being to find her peace, she does cling to this new idea of a love story she deserved to find her way out of the chaos she didn't.
Throughout my novel, one of the strongest themes I've focused on was that of the main character's struggle with her identity. After she discovers a dark family secret, this sends her into complete chaos, and her entire life changes. When things like this happen in our lives, sometimes it takes a whole lot of bad to get to the good. And she certainly experiences a lot of bad, but she ultimately reveals that good things can come if you hang onto your strength.
We all have something that lies underneath and threatens to destroy us. Erica's story is not unique, but it gives the world a unique look at the complicated problems of the people we meet every day. On the outside, everybody thinks she has the perfect life, but appearances are deceiving. We all have something that hurts us more than we understand how to handle. What's yours? This story isn't only about Erica Cohen. It's about every girl in high school who feels alone.
For any of us who have survived high school, we've all met them—the popular girls. They are the ones every guy wants to get close to and every girl is secretly jealous of. But we also don't know is that they have real lives, real problems, and real pain. This is a story of what we don't see happening behind the perfectly-painted smile. This is a story that shows us we are all the same, and we all have problems that threaten to destroy us.
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