In the past 48 hours, my new novel CRUMBLE (the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival Winner for YA Fiction) has received a couple of negative reviews. And I anticipate based on the subject matter that it will receive many more. As a writer, I welcome all reviews–positive and negative. The contrast between the two sparks debate, and debate leads to interest. However, I have a feeling these negative reviews are from readers who were somehow misled into believing that CRUMBLE was a young adult romance novel–a feel-good, heartwarming, young love story about an interracial couple. I’m sorry to say, this is not CRUMBLE. And I apologize to anyone who believed this to be the case before they read the book.
If you are a reader of primarily romance and/or fantasy fiction, I’m asking you not to read CRUMBLE. Or, if you’re going to read it, know ahead of time what to expect. Brace yourself and try to keep an open mind. I don’t write romance. I don’t write fantasy fiction. My writing is dark, often harsh. I focus on those issues that make most of us…maybe all of us…uncomfortable. And in the case of CRUMBLE, there is not a happy ending. Unfortunately, it ends the way a story like this would end, in real life. I know the purpose of reading is to escape “real” life, and I appreciate that, and I appreciate authors who provide that. In my first novel, although as dark (if not more-so than CRUMBLE), I decided to go with a happy ending, and, ironically enough, was criticized for it by a number of readers. “The ending was just too difficult to believe.” “That wouldn’t happen in real life.” I can only imagine what people would’ve said if I’d ended it with a tragedy…
I write about the sometimes harsh reality of life because we live in a rough world, void of vampires and werewolves and witches. Our real world might not be so vile if it was filled with vampires and werewolves and witches. Humans can be much more vicious than these docile creatures. As a mother, I don’t shield my teenage son from the ugliness in our world, but I do teach him to embrace the beautiful moments when they appear, and even though life can be rough at times, those beautiful moments are plenty. I could never justify letting him traverse the choppy waters of high school and beyond without fully preparing him for what he might encounter. To me, that’s dangerous. And I realize that more when I discover there are people out there who don’t believe racism still exists in our society, that somehow it just washed away with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. I mean, we elected a black president, how can racism still exist?
In a 2012 article posted on the Southern Poverty Law Society website, it was said that the number of hate groups in 2011 reached a total of 1,018. According to the article, “The truly stunning growth came in the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement — conspiracy-minded groups that see the federal government as their primary enemy…By the turn of the millennium, the Patriot movement was reduced to fewer than 150 relatively inactive groups. But the movement came roaring back beginning in late 2008, just as the economy went south with the subprime collapse and, more importantly, as Barack Obama appeared on the political scene as the Democratic nominee and, ultimately, the president-elect…The swelling of the Patriot movement since that time has been astounding. From 149 groups in 2008, the number of Patriot organizations skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, shot up again in 2010 to 824, and then, last year jumped to 1,274. That works out to a staggering 755% growth in the three years ending December 31, 2011. Last year’s total was more than 400 groups higher than the prior all-time high, in 1996.”
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but racism is very much alive today, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of bigotry and intolerance, of people being robbed of their right to marry the people they love, of women being harassed and mistreated because they chose to have an abortion, of parents blaming the system rather than themselves for the bullying behavior of their own kids, and of parents who abuse and neglect their children (and, yes, there are thousands of children who die each year at the hands of the very humans who brought them into this world). I’m sick and tired of it, so I choose to write about it.
I think I write well, but I certainly don’t put myself on a pedestal. I simply write what’s in my heart by writing about what scares me most about being a mother. What I ask of the people who choose to read CRUMBLE is that you prepare yourself for the painful truth that lies within its pages. And judge the book based on my ability as a writer, not on your own personal disappointment of not getting what you expected.