Choosing Whose Words Have Power Over Us, a guest post by author Meg Kassel
I loved the movie Labyrinth as a little kid. Aside from being fascinated with David Bowie, I liked the main character, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), whose baby brother is stolen by Jareth (Bowie), the Goblin King. The only way to get him back is to defeat a formidable labyrinth, with traps and twists that render it nearly impossible to navigate. Despite Jareth’s taunts to give up, Sarah enters the labyrinth to save her brother and makes some unusual friends on the way. There is a poem, which if Sarah could remember the ending to, would negate the Goblin King’s power. But she can’t remember the words. . .
This movie stuck with me. I’ve watched it numerous times, at different stages of my life. Because, well, David Bowie, but more so because Sarah represented. Steely resolve, determination despite terrible odds, and resilience in the face of a cruel foe. It isn’t surprising that these books, movies, music, make an impression on a writer when they start creating work. There is a bit of Sarah in all my heroines, and certainly in Angie Dovage, the seventeen-year-old main character in my debut, Black Bird of the Gallows.
Early in the book, Angie’s traumatic past is exploited by a bullying classmate, Kiera, who makes a point of informing Reece, Angie’s new neighbor and hot new addition to the student body, about the troubled years Angie lived with her late mother. Angie flees the cafeteria in humiliation and shame. She also hides her musical talent behind a disguise, afraid that if her true identity is known, she and her music would be rejected. That’s where she is in the beginning. That’s where lots of teens are, and that’s where I was at various points in my life. The words of another can devastate. In Black Bird of the Gallows, Angie becomes swept into a fight for survival, as events unfold, both natural and supernatural. She learns to trust herself. She learns to choose who has power over her. Late in the book, she faces Kiera again, although this time, the bully must rely on Angie for assistance. Kiera hasn’t changed. She’s still as petty and small and unkind as ever, but Angie IS different. And that’s what makes this interaction so different from the first.
There were times in school when I felt intimidated, belittled, by another. There were mornings I walked to the bus stop with a pit in my stomach and sweat on my palms. It’s a horrible feeling, and one I usually kept to myself for fear of compounding the bad feelings I already had. There was no defining moment that ended those feelings for me, but many little lessons. Many tiny revelations. Growth that came in the form of a thousand pricks on the finger. Life is always changing. We DO get to choose whose words have meaning and whose does not. At some point in Angie Dovage’s journey, she decides that Kiera’s words do not. If I hadn’t chosen to disempower the negative voices in my life, I wouldn’t be a writer now. Creativity can’t flourish without some level of personal empowerment. Creativity and fear don’t mix. In Labyrinth, Sarah’s journey eventually finds her face to face with the Goblin King. She prevails because she owns her inner strength, sees a larger world, and finds the words which have been with her the whole time: “you have no power over me.”
Black Bird of the Gallows Official Description:
A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.
Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.
What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.
Add to Goodreads TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33509076-black-bird-of-the-gallows
Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson’s School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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