Showing Teens It’s Okay to be Angry, a guest post by Lauren Blackwood
“I am a Wildblood. Rage is all I have.”
I think about that line a lot. As a pantser, who writes wherever the wind takes me rather than sticking to the plan, the theme of anger didn’t reveal itself right away while I was writing Wildblood. To be honest, I thought it was just showing up on the page because of the state of the world—I started working on it in 2020, and between being stuck mostly inside due to the pandemic and all the tragedies in the world happening to Black people, I had a lot of feelings to let out. Or maybe it was just because I was such an awful parent to my protagonist, Victoria, and put her through far too much for her to ever not be angry. Still, however it happened, that line ended up in the first draft. And, in a way, it helped shape Victoria’s journey of dealing with and expressing her anger throughout the book, becoming one of the major themes with seemingly no effort on my part.
In the story’s context, rage has a double meaning. Wildblood’s have an ability called blood science, which allows them to manipulate blood using the energy in the blood’s cells (ATP, though they didn’t have a name for it back in the 1890s when Wildblood takes place). They use this science to protect tourists on road that snakes through the monster-infested jungle. However, Wildbloods’ bodies are unable to handle using their science too often in a short span of time, and doing so results in a state called raging, where they are out of control of their body, mind, and science. In this state, they are potentially a danger to everyone around them—or that’s how it appears on the outside. For this reason, no Wildblood ever wants to rage, because if it happens too many times it can lead to them turning feral permanently and, eventually, their death.
But that’s how society views Black anger, isn’t it? Even the justified anger Black people show for all the atrocities and microaggressions inflicted upon us is seen as dangerous, disruptive, or inconvenient. Unworthy and unwanted. A display that makes people too uncomfortable. Something that should never be seen.
And forget anger— even when we don’t show it, even if we have every right to and probably should, we’re seen as a threat. Before I became a writer, I worked plenty of retail and office jobs in my time, and even just speaking up for myself with any sort of assertive tone would get me, “Why are you being so aggressive?” or “Calm down, Lauren.” And that’s not even as bad as it could have been. We live in a society where Black people are seen as threats simply by existing, which is how we end up mourning innocents like Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, and far too many others.
Black people—not just adults, but teens and children—are punished for expressing any emotion that isn’t seen as “safe” according to society. The same society that enslaved us and had to go to war to decide whether or not to set us free, burned down our businesses and homes when we’d finally built wealth of our own, pushed back against our protest for basic human rights with violence. And the sad truth of it is, it’s 2023 and society hasn’t changed much from the past hundreds of years full of oppression and inequality.
So when I wrote, “Rage is all I have,” I wanted to, in a way, reclaim Black anger. Not as a curse, but as a means of expression and healing. Because the Wildbloods are basically enslaved, they don’t have much to call their own and even less control in what happens in their life. But they can control if they rage, and some choose to do it, despite the stigma and the threat of death.
Victoria begins the book by holding in her anger and suffering so much despite her silent obedience to what society dictates. But as her story unfolds, she learns to express and wield her anger in order to free herself—not only physically, but the mental and emotional prison she’d been contained in for so many years. It takes an intense journey of loss for her to get there, but by the end she finds her true strength when she finally expresses the anger she had long been afraid to show.
I’m glad such a powerful theme as anger made it into Wildblood. Just as happiness, sadness, and surprise are all human expressions of emotion, so too is anger. It’s so important to show teens (and adults—I learned this lesson pretty late in my life) that there’s nothing wrong with a little well-directed rage, especially if it makes you a better, more whole person by the end.
Meet the author
Lauren Blackwood is a Jamaican American living in Virginia who writes Romance-heavy Fantasy for most ages. When not writing, she’s a musician and a tiramisu connoisseur. Her debut YA Fantasy Within These Wicked Walls is a New York Times Bestseller and the Reese’s Book club Fall 2021 YA Pick. Her latest Wildblood released February 7 to critical acclaim.
A thrilling new fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Blackwood!
Eighteen-year-old Victoria is a Wildblood. Since she was kidnapped at the age of six and manipulated by the Exotic Lands Touring Company, she’s worked as a tour guide ever since with a team of fellow Wildbloods who take turns using their magic to protect travelers in a Jamaican jungle teeming with ghostly monsters.
When the boss denies Victoria an earned promotion to team leader in favor of Dean, her backstabbing ex, she’s determined to prove herself. Her magic may be the most powerful on the team, but she’s not the image the boss wants to send their new client, Thorn, a renowned goldminer determined to reach an untouched gold supply deep in the jungle.
Thorn is everything Victoria isn’t – confident, impossibly kind, and so handsome he leaves her speechless. And when he entrusts the mission to her, kindness turns to mutual respect, turns to affection, turns to love. But the jungle is treacherous, and between hypnotic river spirits, soul-devouring women that shed their skin like snakes, and her ex out for revenge, Victoria has to decide – is promotion at a corrupt company really what she wants?
A fierce, lush fantasy by New York Times bestselling author Lauren Blackwood, Wildblood tells the story of a girl who must find the strength to defeat the demons of the jungle as well as her own to find where she truly belongs.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/07/2023
Age Range: 13 – 18 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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