Speak meets Gossip Girl in this searing contemporary Young Adult novel where the most courageous three words a teenage girl will ever have to say are, “I need help.”
But fifteen-year-old Chris Miller is far from courageous. She does nothing when her best friend is sent to juvenile detention for a crime Chris knows she didn’t commit. She stays quiet as her mother steamrolls her into a scholarship program at St. Catherine’s Prep for her sophomore year. She acquiesces when her new friends introduce ‘drinkstagram ’at their sleepovers. Chris understands that quiet insecurity isn’t the most valiant approach to life, but it gets her through the day unscathed. Until she’s sexually assaulted.
In the aftermath, Chris’s fragile coping mechanisms crumble, alongside her grades and her tenuous happiness. When Chris is forced to volunteer at an afterschool program to maintain her scholarship, she finds herself catapulted back to the very neighborhood she has been struggling to escape. When her family is thrust into the crosshairs of a gang war, she discovers just how much damage her silence can cause. Ultimately, she must decide if she will continue to stay quiet as others call the shots and remain a victim, or if she can forge the strength to stand up, declare the truth and call herself a survivor.
Trigger Warning: This story contains content that may be sensitive for some readers including sexual assault and drug/alcohol consumption.
Chris's fingers trembled over the email icon on the cracked screen of her Samsung phone.
“It's from St. Catherine's. Oh my God, Lesley, I'm going to pee my pants.”
“Spelling Bee, there's no way they didn't accept you. Get that tremble outta your pale-ass chin.” Lesley pulled her full lips and dark eyebrows into an assured pout. “You're the smartest freshman in the history of Bridgeport High School. All that shit about string theory you were spouting off in the hallway last week? I didn't even know you were speaking English. I thought Mr. Idelson was going to nut himself.”
“Eww.” Chris wrinkled her nose at the thought of her ancient Biology teacher doing anything that resembled nutting himself.
“Eww.” Lesley jutted her chin in agreement. “The point is, you're a genius. Just open it.”
Chris pushed her brown hair behind her ears and attempted to duplicate Lesley's self-confident posture. It was true. She was smart. At public school. St. Catherine's Prep existed in a different universe. It was, without question, the best high school in the area, possibly in the whole state of Connecticut. The campus gleamed like a bastion of perfection, nestled securely into the part of Fairfield County dominated by large, estate-style houses and private waterfront property. The girls wore charcoal grey uniform skirts and the boys wore monogrammed blue blazers. The tuition was $35,000 a year. The thought that they might accept her there on a full scholarship for tenth grade seemed as ludicrous as Hagrid the groundskeeper sweeping into her mother's postage stamp apartment to let her know she’d been accepted to Hogwarts.
Chris took a breath and clicked on the screen with shaking fingers. She blinked as the words swam into coherent sentences in front of her.
Dear Ms. Miller,
The admissions committee at St. Catherine's School...outstanding application...meaningful performance...blah, blah, blah... Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you of your acceptance to St. Catherine's School for the 2020-2021 school year.
“I got in.” Chris almost choked on the words.
“Told you.” Lesley deadpanned for a beat before she let out an excited scream. The noise ricocheted over the cracked cement courtyard of the K Street Housing Project. “Maybe now your mom will get off your case about hanging out with me.”
Chris grimaced. “Maybe.” Maybe not.
Lesley shimmied into a victory dance. “We need to celebrate!” Chris could predict the next words to come out of her mouth as clearly as if Lesley were reading off a script. “Do you have ten dollars?”
This is why my mother doesn't like you, Chris thought, smiling.
I am a writer, teacher and outdoor enthusiast, always looking for a new adventure.
Originally from New York City, I have also lived in China, New Zealand and Spain. I’m on a constant quest for the best food and views in the world. Some of my favorite places are the GR 221 in Mallorca, the top floor of the Musee D’Orsay in Paris and the window seat on a Fifth Avenue bus in Manhattan.
I’m have received comprehensive work training in a large variety of fields including political street canvassing, freelance writing, white water rafting, latte making, childcare and secondary science education.
I have an undergraduate Magna Cum Laude degree in Environmental Science with a focus in Hydrology from CU-Boulder and a graduate degree in Secondary Science Education from NYU. I’ve served as an NSTA New Teacher Fellow, a Jhumpki Basu Fellow and participated in the Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots Training program.
I’ve just completed my first YA contemporary manuscript and I’m seeking agent and publisher representation.