I am beyond excited to have the amazing author of I'LL MEET YOU THERE, Heather Demetrios, on the blog today. She has written an unforgettable story about hardships and overcoming those obstacles. I devoured this novel late in 2014 and it immediately went on my "must recommend this book to everyone I know" list. I love this story for its raw, irreplaceable characters and the richness they bring to each and every page. There is an honest voice, blossoming through Heather Demetrios's words, that begs to be heard. I am honored to have her sharing a closer, more intimate look behind the voice of one character in particular. Please welcome Heather to the blog & be sure to enter the giveaway to win a hard copy of this exquisite novel below (open to US and Canada only).
The People Who Fill The Holes Inside Us
One thing I don’t get to talk very often about when discussing I’ll Meet You There is the relationship that Marge, the owner of the Paradise Motel, has with Skylar and Josh, the novel’s protagonists. Skylar describes Marge as a mama bear, a Midwest transplant who bought the Paradise after her Army son was killed. In the novel we see the ways in which she supports Sky and Josh, whether it’s feeding them when they’re hungry, offering shelter, or just being a solid, dependable presence. Both Sky and Josh have troubled home lives with emotionally absentee parents or, in Sky’s case, literally absent, as her father has been dead for several years. Marge is a mother who lost a child and so she directs the energy she can’t put into her son’s life toward these two broken kids. Marge doles out tough love and gentleness in equal doses—she doesn’t let Sky or Josh get away with anything. The balance between accountability and affection is key to the relationship between an authority figure (she’s their boss) and a young adult.
Looking back on the novel, it’s no surprise that I inserted Marge into Sky and Josh’s lives. I myself come from a broken home and though I know my mom loved me, she wasn’t always able to be everything I needed. All through my childhood and adolescence I had adults who stepped in to shoulder some of my single mom’s burden and, later, to be there when the family dynamic became unhealthy after the addition of a step-father. Whether it was a coach, a teacher, a youth pastor, a friend’s parent, or some other giving person in my community, my life has been buoyed by the adults who stepped up when they saw a kid’s need. When I was in high school I had a mentor through my church named Tricia. She was—and is—an amazing woman. We were in a short-term mentorship program that was only supposed to last a few months. When all the other mentors and mentees parted ways after the allotted time, she stayed with me for several years, until I graduated from high school. We’d go out to lunch and she’d come to see my school plays. We’d talk on the phone. Another mentor I had was my drama teacher. She’d keep her classroom open every day at lunch so the drama geeks had a safe place to hang out and be geeks. We called her Mama K and she really was. If we had boy troubles or problems at home, her office door was always open. I was a good kid because of people like Tricia and Mama K, adults who got that I was hurting and a little bit lost. I always appreciated their efforts, but now as an adult I can see even more how incredibly generous these people were with their time and resources. I’m sure Tricia had more exciting things to do than go out for Chinese with a high school girl. Mama K undoubtedly needed a little time to herself after teaching a high energy set of classes all day. But they showed up anyway. These are the kind of people we should be giving out major awards to, don’t you think?
In retrospect, I can see how important it was for me to give a Tricia-Mama K to Sky and Josh. For kids who have difficult home lives it’s imperative for them to connect with supportive adults in their community. The teen might not always realize it, but these adults are the ones who often make the difference in whether a kid is able to rise above their despair or surrender to it. They fill the holes inside them. That’s not to say that parents aren’t playing a role as well, but sometimes—especially in single-parent homes—they can only do so much. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world, these people who take kids who aren’t their blood under their wings and watch their backs until they can fly.
In I’ll Meet You There, Sky is working on a collage for Marge all summer. It’s intended to be a going away gift for when she goes to college. Sky isn’t certain whether or not she’ll actually be able to make it out of Creek View, but she keeps on with the collage. Her gift to Marge grounds her. It’s an attempt to give back to the woman who has been such a driving force in her life. Sky tells her, “I wanted to say thank you, and this was the only way I knew how…I don’t know what I would have done without you, Marge. I mean that.”
When I think about my own life, I know I can say the same to my own mentors: I don’t know what I would have done without you.
I mean that.
About the book: If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper. [goodreads]
Published: February 3, 2015 by Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)
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