My new YA novel, Bad Romance, comes out tomorrow. In the publishing world, we call this a book birthday. It feels weird to celebrate this book because it’s based on what were the very worst years of my life. I don’t feel especially cheery like Yay! My book is out! I feel more like Thank God I don’t have to write that anymore. Let’s just say margaritas will be involved in the celebration of this one. 🙂 The book was not written for me, though it was cathartic. I wrote this book for the teens and women who have been in – or are still dealing with – a bad romance. (And, yes, boys too – I know you’re out there).
By “bad romance” I mean a relationship that is verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive. . One in three teens is affected by dating abuse (including verbal and emotional abuse) and one in five teen girls report being physically and/or sexually abused by a partner in the past twelve months. I knew I had no choice but to tell my story. I don’t consider myself a private person, but I’m usually not one to shout about this kind of stuff from the rooftops. (Hey World, guess what? I was sexually assaulted a few days before my high school graduation by someone I loved and trusted!). It’s nice to let sleeping dogs lie. To move on. Except for the recurring nightmare I have once a year about my ex, I’m pretty good. I found this guy, who I dedicated the book to, and feel lucky – indeed, “the luckiest” (and not just because we got tickets to Hamilton):
I blame my husband, Zach, for me writing this book. He teaches high school here in Brooklyn and said he kept seeing girls that were going through what I did. Some even worse: one minute, a girl at his school is fighting loudly with her boyfriend in the stairwell, the next she has a broken shoulder. She said she fell. I gave in and started writing. Bad Romance was originally conceived as a short story for Macmillan’s I See Reality anthology and I thought I’d done my truth telling duty, but the damn universe kept whispering, write the book, and so I did. It was originally a memoir but, for various reasons, I decided to make it a novel. So while Grace’s story isn’t mine exactly (much had to be changed to protect people’s identities), the essence of what she experiences is true to what I went through. The way it felt to be cut down day by day by someone you so desperately want to leave, but can’t. The mindfuck of manipulation and power plays and assaults on your self-esteem. The fear that if you leave this person, you’ll never find love again. Bad Romance gets into how paralyzing this kind of love can be, how manipulation works, and the challenges of navigating a relationship like this without healthy relationships at home to give you the support you need.
I usually don’t read reviews unless they’re trade reviews, but this one came across my desk and it’s all I could have hoped for in terms of reader response. I think she’s much better at talking about the book than I am. I’m working hard to create a space for people that are dealing with bad romances (past or present) to be able to tell their stories, as well as get inspiration and support: the Bad Romance website is that space, and I hope you’ll pop over there and hang out a bit. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me after reading the book – I’ve got your back!
I guess I should also mention that this book isn’t one big bummer. It’s chock-full of drama nerd references, swoon-worthy moments (in my humble opinion), and the most kickass friends a girl can ask for. And Pepsi Freezes, of course. You can order the book and read the first few chapters here, or on the website. Sending massively big hugs your way – I hope this isn’t the book you needed, that you never had a bad romance, but if it is the book that’s got your name written all over it, I give it to you, with love.
About the book:
Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.
Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.
Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.