This week I’m responding to Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompt #2: What book captured your heart? Write about why the first book you loved is the first book you loved.
I happened upon Phoenix Rising in my mother’s classroom (yes, she was my teacher) when I was going through the worst of my 8th grade angst. In the book, Nyle is a young teenager living with her grandmother on a Vermont sheep farm. A nuclear accident has just happened and that portion of the country is living in fear that the radiation will come to them. Survivors from the accident site are shunned with the thought that their radiation is contagious. Nyle’s grandmother takes in 2 survivors though (a mother and son), and Nyle has to deal with her feelings about this and how her friendship with the son might affect her friendship with her disabled friend.
It was like Karen Hesse had written the book for me! I was going through a period where my classmates treated me differently for having Marfan syndrome. I’d been called a mutant. I’d been taunted, told to get lost. Kids complained if I had to be on their team in gym. I came home from school crying, bitter, and angry. Just ask my mom.
Somehow, Phoenix Rising made it more ok. Nyle, Ezra, and Muncie knew what it was like to be a mutant. They knew the frustration of trying to fit in somewhere where others insisted they didn’t belong and the fear of not knowing what the future would hold. And yet, they thrived.
And then I knew that I could thrive, too.