Someone was pound, pound, pounding on the side door. The vicious tiny attack poodles at my feet each peeked one eye open and went back to sleep. Wow, I thought. This must really be important! I quickly hit save, then back-up, then compile, then save again on my manuscript before dashing madly to the door.
A gas leak? A house on fire? Girl Scouts with cookies to sell? I flung open the door ready for anything except a wall of raging tie-dye waving a summons in my face.
“You’re taking me to court?!” the mountain thundered.
“Oh, hi Johnny. Welcome to the Parker Hale. It’s not nearly as grand as the Blog Mansion, but we like it.”
“Court! Over some dry-cleaning and an ER bill.” Johnny Worthen, author extraordinaire of Beatrysel and Eleanor, the Unseen was huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf in acid-laced Technicolor.
“What?” I grabbed the papers and quickly scanned them. “Oh, good. They did include the costs of the rabies shots. How’s Morey The Eel?”
“When my lawyer Sammy ‘Light Finger’ Calzone gets through with you, you won’t have a coconut to crack!” Johnny snarled.
I smiled. “I really liked Eleanor, the Unseen.”
Like water on the Wicked Witch, Johnny melted. “You did?” he breathed.
“Yep.” I opened the door wider. “Wanna come in and talk about it?”
On the back deck I cracked open a couple of Diet Cokes and poured them over ice.
“What? No bourbon?” Johnny sulked.
I waved my hand over his glass. “Tah-dah! Now it’s bourbon.”
He sniffed it. “It’s still soda. You can’t do that. You’re not magic!”
“Says the guy who just sniffed his drink. We’re authors, Johnny. It’s all about suspending disbelief. In Eleanor you create a creature that’s not what she seems. Parts of her transformation are rooted in modern physics—endothermic, mass conservation, and the like—while other parts are more mystical—tasting, shifting, mimicking, and hints about Native American lore. She’s not quite one thing or another. How did you go about creating her?”
The power of metaphor, the energy of symbol, and a web of imagination. I wanted to embody the idea of potential radical change, put it within the most vulnerable creature I could imagine and make it all believable.
Eleanor, The Unseen, is a paranormal story, which suggests that something ain’t right in it, but I wanted that something to be natural as opposed to supernatural. I based it on legends for historical grounding. Every culture I know has some kind of folktale about a shapeshifter, be it the werewolves of Transylvania, the Skinwalkers of the Navajo, or the Nimirika among the Shoshone. I approached that paranormal element within Eleanor from the idea that all these stories were right but wrong at the same time. These ancient peoples all witnessed the same thing, event, creature, what have you, but they didn’t understand it. Their descriptions are full of fear and superstition and prejudice (a theme in the series) but what they have in common, a brush with something unusual, marvelous and scary, was right on point. There is a predator in their midst. The suggestion becomes then that the paranormal element in the story is old and familiar to mankind, but forgotten and dismissed because it is so rare and unstudied.
I wanted the miracle to be metaphor and symbol, a complication and not the story itself. The story is Eleanor, her tale, her trials as the ultimate outsider hiding in plain sight. She is a soup of contradictions, lost but found, loved but lonely, malleable but fixed, struggling with who she is, what she might be, and afraid of her own powers in the face of tragedy and hope. To compound the metaphor, it’s placed at that time of life when young people become young adults and grow into what they are to be, those awkward socializing high school days. Eleanor is an exaggeration of the growing up, trying to fit in while being different.
Finally, keeping with the theme of change, I needed Eleanor’s to hurt. Change is painful and her wonderful “gift” has costs — terrible, painful, frightening costs. It’s not easy. It is not quick. She becomes helpless. And she is a slave to it. Thus is change. Change is not easy. Also, I think this simple symmetry of cost and benefit help to sell the concept and make it easier for the reader to suspend their disbelief and concentrate on the story.
While Eleanor prefers to hide rather than fight, she will when her back’s against a wall. Do you think most bullied people are that way? Is there a snapping point?
Bullying is a social interaction that extends far beyond the microcosmic high school experience. It’s a hierarchical thing, alpha males and females rising to the top of the herd by beating others down. I see it as a symptom of insecure people trying to gain some control over their lives. It’s hard to pity them, but in the wide shots, you can and I try to.
The idea of fighting back is a tricky one for Eleanor. Her snapping point has less to do with what her bullies are doing to her than it does with her change of perception of her own worth and her future. She admits to herself that she’s becoming reckless, fighting back when she’d always retreated before because at that point in the book, she has something to fight back for. She has hope. Most people would snap after a long history of abuse, a final straw thing, but for Eleanor it’s an awakening inside her, a new idea of self-worth brought on by the simple affection of a single friend. When survival is no longer enough, the timid become bold.
There’s a whole cannon of literary work about young girls transitioning from victim to victor, everything from Stephen King’s Carrie to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple to Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl. How does Eleanor add to the empowerment conversation?
There is a lot of Carrie in Eleanor, I admit that. The similarities struck me as I wrote my book, but there are important and fundamental differences between King’s story and mine: his is horror. Mine is a fable.
I don’t think Eleanor is a victor over her bullies. They are trials that shape her, complications that vex her, metaphor for an intolerant society but they are just some among the many troubles Eleanor faces. Because Eleanor has lived in fear her entire life and was forced to hide, she is fearful and passive. She reacts as a frightened animal might. Her achievements then, not to give too much away, are to take control of her life and become an active player in its events. It’s the difference between being a scavenger and a hunter.
It is a complicated dynamic, the bullies and Eleanor, and not to give too big a tease, but it is explored in depth, passionately and lovingly, over the length of the series.
While many readers will focus on the developing love story between Eleanor and David, the love story that caught my heart was the relationship between Eleanor and her mother, Tabitha. Tell me about how this theme came about.
Yes. Absolutely. The original title for the book was not Eleanor, but Tabitha. The series was to be called Eleanor, but editors and publishers wanted Eleanor so Tabitha, Eleanor Book 1, become Eleanor, The Unseen Book 1. Whatcha’ gunna to do? But so central was Tabitha to the book that she was in fact meant to be the title character.
The relationship between Eleanor and Tabitha is central to the book: two women, vulnerable and alone, broken and lost coming together, saving each other. It is a powerful symbol of love and acceptance, joy without conditions. The best of humanity – a mother’s love. It is healing among death, growth during decay, the future from the past. Tabitha is the teacher and Eleanor the student and what is taught is the best our species has to offer.
I channeled my own grandmother into Tabitha, and other friends and family. I took from them the best I’ve seen in people facing the worst; the nobility and affection, strength during weakness, joy during pain. Tabitha’s very personal to me.
Give me the links so readers can find you.
Kirkus Review of Eleanor, the Unseen
Twitter: Twitter @JohnnyWorthen
Any upcoming events? Just in case I need to serve you new papers.
Upcoming events? Serving papers? Well, uhm, I’ll be at the “Process Server Lynching” on the 19th and the “Frivolous Lawsuit Retribution Society” meeting, gun sale and barbeque on the 5th. Don’t forget the “How to Poison Your Neighbors” workshop on the 8th. I’ll be presenting.
Otherwise check out my events page.
And make sure you come out to the Eleanor, The Unseen Book Launch on the 28th of June at Barnes & Noble in Sugarhouse. 12:00-3:00.
Johnny leaned back in his chair and drained his glass. “Well, you got me all talkative about Eleanor, The Unseen. I love that book. It’s deeply personal. My grandmother is in Tabitha; Eleanor is the daughter I never had. The issues are as deep to me as the marrow in my bones. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. You still owe me for Morey The Eel’s rabies shots.”
I waved my hand over a cocktail napkin. “Here you go. Paid in full.”
Links to my visit to Johnny Worthen’s Blog Mansion
“But Lehua, where is your Christian charity? We should welcome everyone with open arms. You’re judging and that’s wrong.”
Or words to that effect. It’s a PG blog after all.
Charity is something I take very seriously. I feel that as someone who has been given much, I have a responsibility to give back in continuous and significant ways. I give generously not only in money and goods, but in time as well. And unlike many of the people who disagree with me, I’ve also traveled enough to know what real need looks like. This isn’t it.
To the Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or Flying Spaghetti Monster) charity proponents, I’d like to point out that the Rainbow Family is composed of people who are choosing to come here and break the law by camping longer than anyone else is permitted to and without paying required fees or even providing for modern sanitation services. These are not people fleeing a natural disaster, military coup, or economic downturn. These are not down on their luck, brother can you spare a dime panhandlers. Regardless of whether or not you believe in their message of peace, love, and dubious hygiene, they are lawbreakers amassing in a number that allows them to act this way.
We have another name for people who think they are special like this: bullies.
Funny, we spend a lot of time and energy teaching children that bullying behavior is wrong. We tell them that it’s not okay to simply take what they want. We teach them to take responsibility for their actions, to think of others, and to understand that might does not make right. To do other than this is to act as a selfish elitist.
No matter how much the Rainbow Family preaches love, tolerance, and acceptance, by their actions you know them for what they truly are: bullies.
I’m not going to welcome them and encourage this behavior. It’s the equivalent of telling a child that it’s okay that the bully takes his lunch money. He needs it.
That’s not charity. That’s victimhood.
I’m calling a bully a bully, and if that makes me uncharitable in your opinion, fine. Don’t expect me to be handing out sandwiches or spare change or giving away blankets or coats this summer to the panhandlers who have already hit me up.
I’m giving my charity to people who really need it.
I’d always assumed if I was paying for a party, I’d at least get to pick the guest list.
I am soooo tired of special.
This year, the Rainbow Family has chosen Uintah National Forest for their annual gathering. It’s a pristine chunk of federal land that starts just a few miles from my front door. It’s breathtakingly beautiful up there. Being so close, I’d always wished I could park my camper in a prime location and run back and forth all summer long, but there are laws that don’t allow camping in one spot for more than 14 days. Rangers keep track of who’s camping where and if you’re out fishing or hiking when they stop by, they’ll thoughtfully leave notes telling you how many more days you can stay. To camp in the Uintahs all summer, you have to break camp and move at least five miles every 14 days. That way everyone gets a chance to enjoy the area.
Unless you’re the Rainbow Family.
You see, they’re special. The rules don’t apply to them.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Rainbow Family. They claim to have no leader or leadership; if you have a bellybutton, you’re in. Call them counter-culture, hippies, or alternative life-stylers, nobody applies or signs a permit, pays a fee, or is accountable for the group’s actions. Through magical group consensus—maybe it’s a homing instinct—a place for their annual gathering is selected about two weeks before the big shindig. You know your town’s the gathering place when they start showing up. The media takes care of the rest of the invitations.
In 2014 the only town near their gathering place is my town, a rural high-desert valley community of 12,000 residents misnamed Heber City. Heber’s small enough that the tellers at the bank, checkers at the grocery store, waiters at the diner, and the guy who takes the movie tickets know me well enough on sight to ask how my daughter’s soccer team is doing. We’re also remote; our nearest neighboring towns are 30 minutes away in different directions through winding canyons at freeway speeds. We’ve learned to watch out for deer, elk, and the occasional moose crossing.
Living on the outskirts of Heber on the main road to the Uintah National Forest, my neighbors and I have never locked our doors. Seriously. When the sheriff told us we had to start locking up our houses, sheds, garages, and barns because Rainbows are opportunists, we all had to run 25 miles to the nearest Home Depot. In my case after 15 years, we couldn’t find a key. Many of our garages and sheds don’t have closing doors. Hell, half the cars and pick-ups in the valley are left unlocked with the keys in the ignition. Yes, Virginia, there really is a place like this in 2014 America.
Conservative estimates think we’ll get 10,000 to 15,000 Rainbow Family members, although they admit some gatherings have been as high as 30,000. The big event is July 4th with most arriving before July 1st and staying through July 7th , but some stay all summer. The Rainbow Family Council started showing up mid-June and selected their main campsite June 15th. Like busy beavers, they’ve been setting up satellite camps since.
June 15th to July 1st to July 7th to…wait a minute…
But it’s okay. They’re really nice people with just a few bad apples giving the group a bad name; we know because they say so.
I’m calling shibai. Here’s the real deal.
The Rainbow Family has held yearly gatherings since the early 1970s. They are fully aware of their impact on small communities—in fact, so aware that they target them. Like modern day locusts, they descend waving flags of free speech, the right to assemble, and freedom of religion while thumbing their noses at laws that govern the rest of us. They gather in such large numbers with no advanced warning that communities are overwhelmed. They camp on federal land which is under Federal, not local jurisdiction. The only way to enforce the laws already in place is to send in the National Guard to root them out. No Fed wants pictures of flower-wielding, kumbaya-singing hippies forced at gunpoint to break camp splashed across the news. So the Federal attitude is live and let live. Besides it’s not like they’re camping on the steps of the White House.
As hopping mad as we get, Heber City’s 12,000 tax paying residents simply do not carry much juice with the Feds. We’re not even a rounding error in their calculations.
Heber City and Wasatch County taxpayers will be left picking up the tab for everything from the trash Rainbows leave behind—I don’t care if they claim to bag it all up, somebody at some point is going to have to haul it out of the mountains and pay to put it in a landfill—to the overtime cost for EMT, police, fire, and all the other civil services needed to manage a double or tripling of our population. Of course, there’re also softer costs like vandalism, petty theft, theft of services, unpaid hospital visits, and drains on the local food pantry and disaster relief services. Rainbows are quick to point out that local business benefit from their arrival, but the math doesn’t add up. Previous Rainbow Gatherings have left behind bills of more than $500,000 in services alone—that’s more than $4,000 per resident in Heber City—bankrupting already thin county coffers. This is not an exaggeration. During last year’s gathering in Montana the governor issued a state of emergency to help defray the fiscal impact. Look it up.
And the Rainbow Family knows this.
And they don’t care.
So don’t tell me how wonderful they are. Really wonderful people pass the magic hat and pony up impact fees, group permits, stay no more than fourteen days, and pay for porta-potties instead of digging slit latrines. Yeah, that’s right. Their waste management plan is slit latrines and campfire ash. Don’t even think about the fact that a human creates about .8 lbs. of solid waste a day. With 15,000 people, that’s about six tons per day. In pristine wilderness. A day.
But I have to give them credit. Next time I want to camp on federal land all summer and dump my black water into a slit latrine instead of hauling it to a sewage treatment facility, I’ll just tell the Ranger I’m with the Rainbow Family.
After all, I have a bellybutton, too.
Had a blast yesterday at BYU with the Kid Authors Camp kids. An amazingly smart, talented, and fearless group of writers. They asked all the tough questions about how contracts work, movie rights, and how they can publish their work when they’re ready, like in maybe another hour or so when they finish their last chapter. These kids are going places!
Tilting at windmills is exhausting.
I should know. For the last few years I’ve been waving my sword at giants, huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf, certain in the rightness of my cause. There is no drug or drink as heady as righteous indignation, for when you are certain that you are right, that you are the only person who can see the truth through the fog that surrounds everyone else, anger pours out like honey, a thick amber goo that seeps into the cracks of everything it touches and sticks and sticks and sticks.
It’s comforting to wallow in how the world should be, to bemoan the state of things, to think that if people would just shut-up and do it my way, they’d see the light. Honestly, the world would be a much better place if everyone just did what I thought they should.
When it’s put like that, it’s much easier to see the pride and arrogance for what it is. In my case, I think I had to run out of steam before I could finally stop and stand there, panting and wiping the sweat off my brow, suddenly realizing that those giants were really windmills. Not only was it impossible to defeat them, defeating them was really not the point.
I’m not going to go into long explanations about my particular windmills—at least not here in a blog post. I will say that a leaky jar of honey can spill over from one area to another until everything is a sticky mess. I worked up a full-head of steam of righteous indignation that finally got me so mired in despair that no progress in any direction was possible—the very opposite of what I was so desperately pushing for.
A hard truth about life is that there are some things we cannot change. Rather than weeping and wailing, gnashing our teeth at the injustices, and demanding that the world accommodate us, I think we need to step back. You can’t stop the ocean waves, but you can figure out how to avoid rolling up the beach spitting sand.
There’s a freedom that comes from ending the pursuit of control over the uncontrollable. It allows you to take the reins over what is in your power even if it’s only your own reactions.
When you stop fighting the waves or tilting at windmills, you give yourself the power and permission to surf.
Didn’t think of that didja, Don Quixote?
I need a new car. In our family, a new car takes years to purchase. My husband researches, test drives, compares. He considers the possible uses we’ll put it to—road trips, pulling horse trailers or boats, or simply running around town—and he figures out which models will work best. He reads all about the upcoming developments, the power train ratios, mileage, traction, and braking systems, and basically overwhelms me with spreadsheets of facts, figures, and options. I say uh-huh and ignore it all until he narrows his list down to one. That’s when I finally break down and say let me drive it.
My list is shorter. Do I like the colors inside and out? Is there a convenient place for my drink? When I stomp on the gas and turn sharply, does the back-end break loose in a plume of smoke and handle like I stole it?
Yeah, I care about the go. Don’t talk to me about fuel efficiency, warranties, the sound system, or on-board navigation. When I have to merge on the freeway, I don’t want that pause in the engine, that I think I can moment, to get in the way of the zoom.
If I drive it and like it and it’s on the lot, I buy it. My husband knows this, so he manages the test drives very carefully. If it’s not on the lot—wrong color or missing a key feature—we’ll order it. Salesmen like that about us until it comes to the negotiation. One foolish dude once said, “I can’t believe you’re walking away over a $300 difference!” I snapped, “I can’t believe you’re losing a sale over $300 you’ll get back in dealer incentives.” “What incentives?” “If you don’t know about your own current corporate pricing structures, get me someone who does. And no, I don’t need oil change coupons, either.” My husband’s research is annoyingly thorough and it makes him laugh when I’m the one going toe to toe with the big bad dealership. But that’s another post.
So we need a new car. It’s been fourteen years since I bought my decked-out Durango RT. That’s another thing about our family. We buy new and keep them forever. We’ve had other cars since, but not one that’s mine.
After several years, my husband’s narrowed it down to a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee, either a completely loaded Limited or a Summit edition with a tow package. While we were waiting for the Grand Cherokee’s brand spanking new diesel engines to hit the showrooms, I test drove everything in its class from a Porsche Cheyenne to an Audi Q5 and Q7 to a Volkswagen Touareg. He’s right. I like the Jeep Grand Cherokee best. It’ll do everything I need it to do and more.
And this is where the mid-life crisis comes it. My eyes are wandering to the cute convertible VW Bug in candy white outside the grocery store. At the park I ran over to check out an orange racing-striped convertible Mini Cooper and swooned. Then there was the sleek deep green Jaguar parked in front of a restaurant. When I was supposed to be looking at Grand Cherokees at a Dodge/Jeep dealership, a Challenger SRT8 in classic plum crazy purple whistled at me. How ya’ doing darling, he said.
Hellooo, big boy! I called and trailed a finger across his hood while he purred.
My husband shakes his head. No way he’s driving a girl car like a VW Bug or Mini Cooper. Might as well get a Prius and take away his man-card. He says if I want a convertible, let’s check out a BMW or maybe a used Audi.
We’ve had convertibles and I loved them for about four months out of every year. In our souped-up Miata I’d drive with the hard-top off in winter, heater blasting full blast, ears numb by the time I got where I was going. But too often I had to drive with either the hard or ragtop up, more because of where I was parking in the city than the weather. Hate, hate, hated dealing with the tops. And all that rear wheel power made it tricky in the snow. A few times during record snowfalls, we had to wait for snow plows to clear our street before we could make it up the hill to our house. Unfortunately, we live much higher in the mountains now. Snow and icy canyons and hills are a sucky fact of life.
Plus convertibles are low slung. Sexy, but hell to climb in and out of on my bum Achilles’ tendon.
When I mention the Challenger, he’s wary. But you hate sedans, he says. You’re always complaining about the seat belts getting tangled in the doors and the trunk’s never quite what you want it to be. He’s right. Sedans make me twitch.
I also know he’s right about the diesel Grand Cherokee. It does have great zoom, cargo space, and sits high on the road. There’s enough space for a couple of adults to comfortably road trip in the back seat. It could tow a boat, small horse trailer, or even the ultralight camper. It’s easy to handle, park, and if I turn off all the annoying auto-driving helpers and chatty navigation systems, I’ll probably like it. As much as the cute, sporty, and outright muscle cars are whispering their siren songs, I know it’s a mid-life crises.
But this time I’m insisting on Deep Cherry Red. A girl has to have some standards.
Available for purchase as an eBook and to order as a trade paperback is the first novel in Angela Hartley’s Sentient Chronicles, Copper Descent.
From the back of the book:
The tale of Sinauf was a secret nineteen-year-old Nina Douglas’ ancestors kept hidden for eighteen generations. But the truth has been brought into light.
The dark god of legend is real.
Caught in an ancient war still raging strong in the modern world, Nina is confronted with Sinauf—the embodiment of all she fears and desires. Like a moth drawn to a deadly flame, Nina must resist the seductive charm of a beautiful monster, or prepare to lose everything she holds dear.
Temptation has a name, and he is coming for her.
I’ve read bits and pieces of this novel as it was being written and can’t wait to read it in its entity. Copper Descent is a New Adult speculative fiction story that weaves Native American mythology into a modern world. Central to the story is the question of fate–can one change it or are we doomed to the future forecast at our birth? Looks like I’ll have to get cracking to find out how Angela answers that!
Copper Descent, the first book in the Sentient Chronicles by Angela Hartley, is published by Fox Hollow Publications and available from Amazon.
You ever get the blahs? It’s like being hungry but nothing looks good on the menu. Blah. When I feel that way, phrases like a change is as good as a rest and only idle hands make bored minds rattle around in my brain. The voice is my grandmother’s. It also says things like if you think you’re bored, I have some chores that’ll wipe bored right off your face.
Grandma is a no-nonsense quit-yer-bitchin’-I-survived-the-Great-Depression-walking-uphill-both-ways kind of lady. She has no patience with blah.
I don’t either, but I deal with it more in a stand-in-front-of-the-fridge and futz-around-on-the-computer way. I’m hopeful something good will magically appear in the five minutes since I last scanned the shelves or clicked a link.
Yeah, not so much.
Grandma’s right. I really should clean the house. It’ll sweep cobwebs both metaphorical and literal out of my life.
You could argue that all teenage girls are self-centered survivalist monsters at heart, at times unlovable, wholly malleable, and subject to the whims of the adults around them.
But in Eleanor’s case these typical teen traits are a little more literal.
Eleanor the Unseen is the first in a trilogy by Johnny Worthen that explores love in many forms: redemptive, passionate, maternal, transformative, first, true, self, and sacrificial. It’s a theme repeated in metaphor and action both gentle and terrifying. Johnny has a knack for drawing the reader into his world like a warm bath. Just don’t get too comfortable. And for heaven’s sake, don’t close your eyes.
On the surface, Eleanor is a YA horror novel about a monster that flies under the radar masquerading as a shy Wyoming teen growing up in a small town on the edge of an Indian reservation. The town itself is a character with all its stifling contradictions playing a part in Eleanor’s decisions as the plot progresses. David, a military kid, was Eleanor’s best childhood friend who knew all her secrets and her heart—until he moved. In their sophomore year, David returns, and Eleanor can no longer hide behind her hair.
Despite its premise, Eleanor is a literary work that builds gradually. It echoes other great works including Grendel, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, and even To Kill a Mockingbird. But don’t let that fool you. There are some horrific scenes in the story that showcase how very alien—and therefore human—the monster is. But rawer than the monster’s survivalist thoughts and actions is Tabitha’s debilitating cancer. Tabitha, Eleanor’s foster mother, races against time to prepare her daughter for life without her. At the heart of the book is their symbiotic redemptive love, a love so strong that it has the power to work miracles.
But don’t forget. Eleanor the Unseen is a horror story, too.
For me, the most realized characters in the story were Eleanor and Tabitha, which sometimes made other key characters like David seem a little underdeveloped in comparison. I also felt that the ending was rushed given the previous pace of the book, but I think I understand why: Johnny wants to hurry the reader past the clearing of the first course to the next tasty morsel in a lazy Sunday brunch. I spent a morning reading Eleanor in one delicious gulp; yes, it’s that good.
Eleanor the Unseen by Johnny Worthen is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Eleanor‘s publication date is July 1, 2014.
You know when you read a book about teens and you think the author just didn’t get it? Well, F.J.R. Titchenell gets video gaming, paintballing, Vespa riding, teenage tomboy angst, true love, the uses of theater paint—oh, and killing zombies.
Confessions of The Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) is awesome like that.
The story is told in a flashback diary format, a record written by teenage Cassie Fremont for future generations about the first week the dead came back to life. It’s the story of being at ground zero when she accidentally kills her crush with a sawed-off paintball gun’s pellet to the temple. Unable to spare a moment to wrap her mind around it, Cassie has to leap into action when Mark snaps back to life as one of the world’s first zombies. An escape from jail—suprbat and psycho-bunny backpack filled with fireworks in tow—she begins a fantastic cross-country journey to reunite twin sisters.
Cassie is not about to wait to be rescued. She embodies what every teenage girl who would rather hang with the boys aspires to—wit and a can-do-buck-up-little-camper attitude. She calls herself a listener, but in reality she leads through example and rock-steady nerves. Cassie’s bravery is in doing what she has to in the moment. She’ll think about it later.
I’m going out on a limb here to say that this YA novel is less about a zombie apocalypse and more about finding yourself, learning to see what’s right in front of you, grabbing life with both hands, and living in the moment. It’s a love story about two people who would never have seen the rightness of each other until life stripped away everything unimportant. Yes, the zombies are there in all their classic want-brains-quick-hit-‘em-with-a-headshot glory, but they serve as a catalyst and an inconvenience, a way for Cassie to show-off her bad self. Titchenell’s touch is refreshingly soft. She trusts her reader to understand her characters through their quirks and reactions to situations rather than relying on a ton of exposition and backstory.
Confessions is a tale that can be read on many levels, and I love meta-fiction like this. While the narration is mostly straightforward, the situations are hilarious and dark. Cassie’s first time driving a car is epic in both scope and tragedy, but she brushes it off with her trademarked that sucked, what’s next aplomb. There are many moments like this that hint at a much larger story unraveling in the background.
Confessions of The Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by F.J.R. Titchenell is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available in paperback and eBook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retail outlets. Don’t miss this one.