Tamara Philip Review
From the explanation of the main character’s name- Polarity to her mother’s illness it was handled with such a breath of fresh air and candor. I can’t stop praising it enough. The love affair between Polarity and Ethan was perfect for their age group and in their situation. I truly appreciated the fact that the author chose to allow the reader to fall in love with Polarity before forcing us to fall in love with the couple way too early in the book. Instead we were genuinely rooting for her to find happiness, and Ethan was the perfect fit for her. They were both strong and resilient in different yet similar ways. It was great to read about a teenaged heroine who may have bent under her dire circumstances but did not ever contemplate breaking. It was refreshing the candidness the author approached the realistic situation of sending kids to alternate schools for bad behavior and even how they treat children in the child protection system , the fact that in our society (the world over, not just in america) it’s usually the poor who suffer first and the hardest. and alot of the time it happens to minorities.
I absolutely loved the fact that Polarity internalized this and wanted in her heart to be a better person because of that. The author didn’t just glaze over it, she acknowledged the fact that it wasn’t something that one teenager could fix, fiction or not.
Added bonus was the main protagonist , the cause of Polarity’s exile (both physical and emotional) wasn’t just one person, or one thing but a culmination of things and people. Brenda Vicars, you are a star and I wish you an insane amount of success!! If only more people were as socially aware as you are!
Review by Jennifer Valencia, June 3, 2015,
He studied me, and I could see layers of understanding and patience in his eyes–as if he had a deeper knowing of the world than I did, but he wasn’t holding my ignorance against me. “I guess people don’t see their own way of seeing. They don’t mean harm by it. They just don’t see it.”
I said what was in my heart. “I’m glad that all of this happened–not just because of what I’ve learned but because it gave me you.”
Guest Post on www.Ericaluckedean.com
Please welcome fellow Red Adept Publishing author, Brenda Vicars. In honor of Brenda’s new book, Polarity in Motion, she tackles a hot topic on my blog today. Why an interracial couple?
My friend Ann and I met for coffee the day I received the proof copy of POLARITY IN MOTION. Naturally, I had the book in my purse, and before our lattes hit the table, I proudly whipped out my first published novel.
“Oh,” Ann said with a surprised expression as she took in the cover. “The boy and girl are uh…interracial?” She made this statement sound like a question, and she flipped the book over to read the back cover. I stayed silent, sipped, and gave her time to read the blurb, which, by the way, says nothing about race.
After she finished reading, she seemed off balance, as if unsure how to ask her unspoken question: Why an interracial couple? The next half hour we probed the reason that question is asked, and why it’s hard to answer.
We talked about our own children and how the stories they love are full of characters who, like our kids, are white. It’s easy to keep our adolescents supplied with a rich flow of books—coming of age, mystery, romance, and science fiction. But when I was a public high school English teacher, I found myself entrusted with classrooms full of diverse students. And when I took my classes to the library, most of the choices on the shelves were about white young adults. How were my students to feel connected to literature when their race was virtually omitted from novels? And what message did the omission send?
So why did I include an interracial couple in Polarity in Motion? Because lots of students come from mixed race families, and lots of teens are or will be in interracial relationships. Thankfully, young adult literature is expanding, and diversity is more frequently represented. But we still have a long way to go.
“You know,” Ann said as we left the coffee shop. “If the two hands on the cover had both been white, I wouldn’t have said, ‘The boy and girl are uh…both white?’”
Guest Post on www.Readersgirlblog.com
How did Polarity’s story come about?
I love trouble—not the inciting incident of it but its aftermath. After people have experienced the most hellacious, unbelievable thing they could ever have imagined, there’s a healing period of time when survivors tap into their deepest reserves of strength and find a path to their new normal. This is the part I love especially when their new normal is more authentic than the old was.
In my job as an educator, I’ve worked with lots of young people who’ve been in that spot where everything they’ve counted on has collapsed, and the only thing they’ve got left is their own resiliency. So Polarity’s story is about a girl who finds herself in a living nightmare when her nude picture hits the Internet. Her notoriety and legal problems could ruin her life, including her fledgling connection with the guy of her dreams—Ethan. And, on top of the flack in her external world, Polarity’s ever-unraveling, borderline personality mother complicates life at the deepest emotional level.
So my love for trouble’s aftermath is the general answer to the question of how Polarity’s story came about. But there’s also a sharp trigger for her story: fear. My fear. For eight years I was a hearing officer for a school district. This meant that if a student, who had been removed for disciplinary reasons, wanted to appeal his or her case, I made the decision. I lay awake worrying many nights about whether a student’s punishment was just and whether a mistake had been made. Is it possible that a student could be kicked out of school in error? Can the system fail? I hope that none of my students were unjustly punished, but I’m afraid that it could happen, and Polarity’s story is one way that it could.
Guest Post on www.BooksandPalsblogspot.com
Teaching in Prison Changed Me
When I was a high school English instructor, an opportunity came up to teach a college night course inside a nearby prison. At that time I still had the smug idea that I could bestow brilliant wisdom upon my classes, so I jumped at the chance to teach inmates. Of all the students on the planet, who more needy of my guidance than the incarcerated?
Entering the prison through a series of gates played out just as it had in movies I’d seen, but in spite of the clanging bolts and locks, I wasn’t bothered by feelings of being trapped. I would dabble in this world only a few hours and then retreat to my safe, white, middle class life. I was led through a maze of check-in rooms and required to relinquish my purse and phone before a guard escorted me into an outdoor area—the prison yard—about the size of a football field and walled in on all sides by two-story buildings. With the guard, I felt safe enough as we walked twenty feet along a sidewalk that bordered the yard and led to the education building.
But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional wham that hit me with my first glance at hundreds of men, mostly black—all dressed in white scrub-like uniforms—milling around in the caged in area. The reality of all these people, locked up, jolted me.
Armed with my syllabus and lecture notes, I made it through the 165-minute class. In this prison there were no breaks during the once-a-week session, so we worked for 165 minutes, non-stop. The inmates were not allowed to do anything independently—no leaving early if the work was complete, no staying late for extra help.
Bathroom breaks were permitted, but the logistics required with the guards was not something I wanted to experience. During the three years I taught in prison, I rarely visited the ladies’ room.
So what great insights did I bestow upon these men? Probably none. Oh, for sure they absorbed the literature. These were the only classes I’d ever taught in which everyone actually read all the assignments—no Cliff Notes or Internet summaries in prison. Essays were never late or incomplete. Test scores were excellent.
But here’s a better question: What did the inmates teach me? This question makes me take a deep breath and wish I had better words to express the profound lesson. The men often wrote about their youth—sometimes their middle and early high school years—when their lives had begun to unravel. I gradually realized that many of my public school students were living through the same stresses that haunted the inmates. The inmates’ pasts were my high school students’ present. The difference was my adolescent students weren’t talking or writing about their struggles. Instead, they were coping and doing their best to navigate—so far.
Teaching in prison changed me. Lessons from the incarcerated made me acutely aware of how fragile and blurred the critical line is during adolescence—the line between holding onto a path to success and crashing through a crack.
In my writing I try to unearth that line and give it voice.
Interview on www.KBoards.com
“Touching.” “Authentic.” “Unforgettable.”
So say readers of Polarity in Motion, who have given the book scores of 5-star reviews. It’s equal parts mystery, romance, and a crushing depiction of what life can be like for today’s teens.
What more need we say about this outstanding debut novel from Brenda Vicars? Let’s hear from the author herself — read on for our KBoards interview with Brenda.
Welcome, Brenda, and congratulations on your new book! In a few words, how would you describe “Polarity in Motion” to our readers?
A fifteen year old girl’s nude picture shows up on the Internet, and she has no idea how the photo was made. Worse, the shot is in a wild-grinning pose that she would never have done. Everything she cares about is now at risk, especially her budding relationship with Ethan.
The book addresses some tough issues, like mental illness and online bullying. What inspired you to take on these difficult themes?
One word sums up the inspiration—students. I’ve learned so much from my students, and I feel called to voice issues that impact their lives. Online bullying and having unstable parents are challenges that lots of young people live with.
This is your debut novel. In the writing of it, what did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I love, love, love working with editors. It was such a gratifying experience to have the input of another person who was so invested in my manuscript. My editors, Alyssa Hall and Misti Wolanski, are my heroes.
In the book, we meet 15-year-old Polarity Weeks. Her family relationships make up a key element of the story. How would you contrast the relationship she has with her mother and her grandmother?
With her ever-unraveling mother, Polarity is forced into a parenting role. But the wise and wonderful grandmother understands the stress of navigating the landmines of borderline personality disorder. So the grandmother provides support for Polarity.
It must be a universal thing that we as teenagers, and probably we as adults as well, seek desperately to be seen as “normal.” Please comment on how Polarity’s view of the world changes as a result of the events in the book.
The biggest ah-ha for Polarity is that most people, herself included, are unaware of the lenses through which they view their world. Simply put, she learns that people don’t see their own way of seeing.
Many readers have commented on how the book’s dialogue is true-to-life. What are your secrets for that aspect of writing?
Lots of years working with young people and amazing editors!
Polarity in Motion would be a great selection for a book group. Do you have a set of starter questions that could help a book group dig into the book?
Yep! Questions are in the back of the book and on my website in a ready-to-print attachment. http://www.brendavicars.com/book-club/
You have a background in public education, as a teacher and principal. How did that experience influence your writing of Polarity in Motion?
I see firsthand every day that the playing field is not even for all students. I want to tell stories that expose inequities but also shine a light on the resiliency of young people who overcome.
Your book has almost 50 five-star reviews already! Are there any reviews that have particularly stood out for you?
I’m grateful for each and every review. The heartwarming glow that reader feedback provides has been an unexpected bonus of publishing. Because of your question, I reread the entries on Amazon, and each one is special. Here are a few comments that span the range: “I nearly forgot I was reading a book….If only we could see through the eyes of others….Wow! What a ride! This is the kind of book that keeps you up all night long….”
This one made me laugh. What a tribute to a character when a reader wants to scream at him! “Ethan seemed to be a strong on and off supporter of Polarity’s, and his vacillations at first glance were confusing, but Brenda Vicars has mastered the air of suspense, and doling out information carefully at the precise moment I wanted to scream!”
Many authors are influenced by their reading. What are some books that you’ve enjoyed recently?
When I was working my way into Ethan’s mind and trying to see through his eyes, I read authors of his race including Jacqueline Woodson and Walter Dean Myers. My favorites of their books were If You Go Softly and Monster. When I was exploring the nuances of borderline personality disorder, I read I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me by Jerold J. Kreisman MD and Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole my Mother’s Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley. Last week I read YA novel, A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler, and it reminded me so much of my own book. Polarity could be BFF with Aura, Schindler’s main character. Both characters are even burdened with a weird name bestowed by an unstable mother. Today I’m immersed in The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins. I couldn’t resist trying a book that is number one on Amazon. Oh my gosh! What a read!
Do you have plans for additional books? Any hints you can give us?
Polarity in Love is emerging. By the time Polarity in Motion was complete, Ethan and Polarity had matured and their needs had deepened. They are now ready for greater risks and a more intense relationship.
Thanks for talking with us! And thank you for creating such a compelling novel.
Thank you for your thought provoking questions and for all your work with KBoards! It amazes me when authors make the time to support other writers and to maintain a blog. You are an inspiration!