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#MHYALit: Speak Up! A guest post about PTSD by author Shannon Greenland

Yesterday, PTSD got a lot of attention. The truth is, PTSD is a psychological response to extreme trauma. Soldiers are not the only individuals that experience PTSD. Many other people experience PTSD, including victims of violent crimes, people who experience an extreme life event like a car accident, and even women who have a traumatic birth experience. There is no shame in PTSD. People who experience PTSD are not weak or somehow less than. Today we are honored to host author Shannon Greenland who is discussing her book, Shadow of a Girl, and PTSD as part of the #MHYALit Discussion. You can read all the posts as part of the Mental Health in YA Lit Discussion here.

shadowofagirl

I’ve heard authors talk about the “book of their heart,” and I used to think that was such a hokey thing to say until I wrote Shadow of a Girl. Normally I write very quickly, but this book took me years to complete. I wrote scenes, I deleted scenes, and I went round-and-round until it all finally came together.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a very real and powerful health condition caused by experiencing a traumatic event(s). The condition can last months or years with triggers that can cause flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and intense emotional and physical reactions. Most people associate PTSD with rape and/or soldiers, but any unpredictable and uncontrollable incident that overwhelms you with feelings of helplessness can contribute to the disorder.

I wrote Shadow of a Girl under my real name, Shannon Greenland, versus my pen, S. E. Green, because of the personal connection I feel to this story. Fear is an interesting thing. It makes weak people strong, strong people weak, frail people into just a shell of themselves, and numerous other scenarios. It’s how you finally emerge from the fear and take action that decides so much about your life.

In the novel I really wanted to explore the life of a girl who finally decides to take action, who slowly begins to heal, and who realizes it is okay to say goodbye to the past and not let it dictate the person you become. It is okay not to have guilt and shame over circumstances out of your control.

Know that if you are struggling in your life, it’s scary, but don’t be afraid to speak up and reach out. Know that there are people available to help. Friends, organizations, teachers, extended family. Don’t let fear dictate you anymore. If you need help, ask for it.

About Shadow of a Girl:

“Gritty and intense, the tension sizzles off the pages!” –Kimberly Derting, author of The Taking

Use cash and keep moving. 

After I ran away from home, these were the two rules that dictated my life. Scoring a job as a roadie fit perfectly for what I needed. Traveling, cash, and life out of the spotlight.  But when my path collides with West, the lead singer of Bus Stop, I can’t seem to stay out of his spotlight—especially since we’ll be touring together for an entire year.

West is determined to break down my walls. He won’t give up. And little by little they come crumbling. But if he knew what lurked behind them, he wouldn’t be so eager to get rid of them.

The more time we spend together, the more the lines of our friendship become blurred. He makes me dream of things I never thought possible. But while our friendship has been evolving into a romance, my secrets have been closing in. And just when I’ve decided to reveal my past to West, I’m confronted by it. The cost of my freedom could ruin the life of the guy I love…

Author Bio:

Shannon Greenland is the award winning author of several novels including the teen spy series, The Specialists, and the YA romance, The Summer My Life Began. Her latest teen novel, Shadow of a Girl, is due out 9.19.16. She also writes thrillers under S. E. Green and lives off the coast of Florida with her very grouchy dog. Find her at www.shannongreenland.com

More #MHYALit Posts on PTSD

#MHYALit: Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Ada, and Me

#MHYALit: IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT: LIVING EACH DAY WITH PTSD

More About PTSD in the Life of Teens

PTSD in Children and Teens – PTSD: National Center for PTSD

Signs, Symptoms & Effects of PTSD in Adolescents

PTSD Facts and Help‎

#MHYALit Book Review: Meet Me Here by Bryan Bliss

Publisher’s description

meet me hereIn a single night—graduation night—Thomas has to decide: do what everyone has always expected of him, or forge an entirely new path? Bryan Bliss’s absorbing examination of one boy struggling with expectations and realities will appeal to readers of Sara Zarr and Chris Crutcher.

Thomas is supposed to leave for the Army in the morning. His father was Army. His brother, Jake, is Army—is a hero, even, with the medals to prove it. Everyone expects Thomas to follow in that fine tradition. But Jake came back from overseas a completely different person, and that has shaken Thomas’s certainty about his own future. And so when his long-estranged friend Mallory suggests one last night of adventure, Thomas takes her up on the distraction. Over the course of this single night, Thomas will lose, find, resolve, doubt, drive, explore, and leap off a bridge. He’ll also face the truth of his brother’s post-traumatic stress disorder and of his own courage. In Bryan Bliss’s deft hands, graduation night becomes a night to find yourself, to find each other, to find a path, and to know that you always have a place—and people—to come back to.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This book checks so many of the boxes of things I love in a novel: takes place in 24 hours, is a smart look at mental health, features a boy-girl friendship, has a vivid setting, and shows characters going against expectations. If you’re like, dang, that’s a lot of really specific stuff you’re into, whatever–you know you have a list of things you really enjoy the heck out of in a book. Also, I really liked the previous book by this author, No Parking at the End Times, and sorta figured going in that I’d dig this. And did I ever.

 

Thomas and Mallory have barely spoken in years. They haven’t really been friends for 7 years. But when Mallory needs a ride home, after punching her boyfriend at a party, he’s there for her. Even though he’s not really sure what she needs or why she turned to him for help, he’s there. What could have been a simple ride home—drop her off and be done—turns into an all-night adventure. It’s hard to tell if the timing couldn’t be better or couldn’t be worse. Goodness knows they both need a distraction. Thomas is supposed to leave for the Army in the  morning, though he has no intention of actually going, a secret he reveals to Mallory and to a few others as the night wears on. And Mallory? She has her own reasons for freaking out and needing to focus on something else for a few hours. It’s graduation night. They should be elated. But both Thomas and Mallory are feeling the nearly unbearable weight of expectation and uncertainty as well as the desire to go away, do the unexpected, follow their own paths.

 

And then there’s Jake. Thomas can’t stop thinking about how broken his brother is, and how terrified he is that he might come back from his time in the Army just as broken. Injured in action, his brother comes home looking physically okay, but Thomas notes, “But he was messed up worse than any of us could have ever imagined. We just didn’t see it yet.” Thomas has been watching his brother, in the months since he’s been home, and knows that dying in combat isn’t necessarily the worst thing that could happen to a soldier. It’s enough to make him think that skipping his appointment at the recruiter’s and going as far away as his meager savings will take him has got to be a better choice than actually joining the Army.

 

Outside of trespassing in an old, allegedly haunted hotel at the start of their adventurous evening together, there’s not much about Thomas and Mallory’s night that’s lighthearted. When they dig up their time capsule and find their “Book of Adventures” notebook, I thought that maybe the story would turn into them checking off items on a bucket list or completing tasks that the childhood versions of themselves considered adventures. Instead they spend much of the evening pursuing and trying to figure out/help Jake. They go to parties, parking lots, a trailer park, and a field. They slowly reveal to each other some of what’s happening in their lives. They talk about why their friendship fell apart. They’re real and honest and nothing gets solved or fixed, but it seems like maybe, just maybe, Thomas and Mallory will get to be the masters of their own fate.

 

MEET ME HERE will inspire important conversations about post-traumatic stress disorder, expectations, friendship, and toxic masculinity. On the surface it could seem like Thomas and Mallory’s friendship just fizzled out, or like Jake just isn’t himself, or like our main characters are feeling an uncertainty about their futures that might come from it being graduation night— a time for endings, beginnings, and thoughts of the future. But Bliss infuses every one of those things with much deeper issues that get explored more thoroughly as the story goes on and as secrets are revealed. This well-written and affecting book is a must-have for every collection. Teen readers may not be in exactly the same situations as Thomas or Mallory but will recognize the feelings of uncertainty and the pressures of expectations as well as appreciate the quiet thread of hope woven throughout. 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062275387

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 05/31/2016

Book Review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Publisher’s description:

underwaterMorgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive-first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself. But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school. When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside. Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.

 

Amanda’s thoughts:

Oof. What an intense read. Morgan has been home, isolated, for months, ever since the shooting at her high school. Her debilitating panic attacks mean she can’t even conceive of being able to cross the threshold of her front door and go out into the world ever again. She does online school, takes comfort in routine and predictability, and is visited twice a week by a psychologist. When Evan Kokua moves in next door, he seems determined to be friends with her. Not only that, he doesn’t really seem fazed by the fact that she’s essentially a shut-in. At first she’s defensive and skittish around him, but their connection is immediate, and cleverness and honesty starts to give peeks of both who she is now and who she was Before.

 

The blurb above, from the publisher, could make it sound like Evan is some sort of savior. But that’s not the case at all. This doesn’t become a story about some boy swooping in and “fixing” a girl. They’re both broken. Maybe everyone is broken. Evan reminds her that she’s not the only one suffering, that everyone is just trying to survive–especially everyone who lived through the school shooting. Morgan’s road to recovery is long. She has intensive therapy. She has emergency pills. She has reminders to breathe, reminders that she’s not dying. She has the support of her mother. She has her own willpower. Her story is a testament to effectiveness of therapy. As the story goes on, we see her slowly (very slowly) change from the scared, isolated girl who can’t leave her house to something sort of like who she used to be. Flashbacks to her past show us how different she is now.

 

It’s through these looks back at her past that we learn more about her father, a now-homeless vet with an alcohol problem. After 5 tours in Afghanistan, he’s not the person he used to be. Morgan, her mom, and little brother rarely hear from him. He’s not getting the help he needs for his PTSD and Morgan is terrified that she might become like him. She doesn’t want to always be looking over her shoulder. She doesn’t want to retreat from her family and from life. And she doesn’t want to feel like a burden.

 

The issues addressed here are LARGE ones. Morgan struggles HARD. But there is a gentle undertone of hope and resilience throughout the story. Morgan’s panic attacks are terrible. What she went through is terrible. What she’s seen her father go through is terrible. The secret she’s hanging onto is making her feel even more terrible. But she has help. She has support. I really loved what Reichardt does with Morgan and Evan’s relationship. He is there to be a friend when she needs one and to get her to start to open up, but he isn’t there to save her. He is kind and understanding, but he’s also frustrated and calls her out on her inability to see that others are hurting too. He never tries to diminish Morgan’s own pain, but he reminds her that she’s not alone. And she’s not.

 

This novel is a powerful look at grief, mental illness, trust, forgiveness, letting go, and moving on. This should make your TBR list because of its strong writing, its examination of PTSD and panic disorders, and its hopeful approach toward therapy and recovery. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780374368869

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Publication date: 01/12/2016