Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Guest Post: Author Jennifer Brown & Giveaway

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.

In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.
I write books that deal with tough subjects. School shootings, dating violence, cyberbullying, and OCD are just some of the issues that appear in my books. My characters go through harrowing bouts of physical and emotional pain, judgment, fear, confusion, grief, anger. They must be resilient. All of them.

But Jersey Cameron, the character featured in Torn Away, is perhaps the most resilient of all of my characters. She faces a devastating tornado alone. She loses everything she has—house, belongings, the people she loves. She is exhausted and homeless and has no idea what will happen to her next.

But she keeps moving forward. She keeps fighting for herself, even as she realizes she’s the only one left who can and will.

Jersey must face her grief. She must stare down her fears. She must be strong. And she must do these things without shutting down. She must protect herself without closing her heart. She must somehow hang onto hope, even when she feels there is nothing left to hope for.

Jersey was not inspired by a particular person. She was inspired by a group of people. Particularly, she was inspired by the people of Joplin, Missouri, some of whom I got the chance to meet and spend time with after a tornado destroyed much of the town in 2011. I was astounded by the destruction I saw, but I was also astounded by the hope I encountered. People who’d, literally, lost everything they owned were refusing to call it quits. They were cleaning up; they were rebuilding. They were going on with life, because they knew they had to. In this sense, Jersey was inspired by all people who rebuild after their lives are upended.

But in a sense, in the same way that Jersey wasn’t inspired by any one person, the tornado in Jersey’s story wasn’t inspired by any one tornado. In fact, it wasn’t necessarily inspired by a tornado at all. We all have our natural disasters—be they tornados or hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, fires—and we also have our personal disasters. We live through divorces, death of loved ones, car accidents and loss of friends, eating disorders and rape and schizophrenia, and a whole host of personal tragedies that I haven’t even begun to describe. The relentless clutches of depression can take down an individual as swiftly and readily as an ocean wave. Nobody is spared from finding themselves, at some point in their lives, digging out from the rubble in their own personal basements, blinking in the rain, wondering what to do next.

With this in mind, I sought to answer the following question through Jersey: Is it possible to ever lose “everything?” As long as you have that glimmer of hope in your heart, can’t you crawl out of the broken bricks and boards and take a shaky step toward daylight? Call it faith, call it the human spirit, call it whatever you wish—the question is can you be taken down if you desperately hang onto it?

Jersey’s journey after a tornado takes everything attempts to wrestle with that question. In the process, she became a real person to me—a person whom I admire for her strength. Can we all be as resilient as Jersey Cameron? I don’t know, but I know that after spending months with her, I definitely would hope to try.
About the Author:
Jennifer Brown writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, area with her husband and three children. She is the author of Thousand Words; Perfect Escape; Bitter End, which was named an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults title; and Hate List, which was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.

Time for the Giveaway!!!

Jennifer was kind enough to offer up a signed hardcover copy of Torn Away to one lucky winner!  This contest is for U.S. Residents only.  Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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