1.What made you decide to share a story involving relationship abuse?
My initial goals were less about message than story - I wanted to write something suspenseful and atmospheric, a ghost story. That said, healthy and unhealthy relationships are subjects I keep returning to as a writer, probably because of my own past experience.
While I’ve not been in a relationship exactly like Clara’s, I’ve been with an abusive partner. (You can read more about this here, if you’re interested: http://debcaletti.com/archives/59).
Now, I just have this hope, this big, giant HOPE that young women (and young men) manage to stay out of those places. I hope they’ll understand themselves better than I did, I hope that they’ll put themselves only in good hands, and, more than anything, I hope that they’ll know. There was so much I didn’t know. And how can we know all that we need to about this, with the basic messages we still get? This is why I shared this particular story. To say, please know. To say, hey, those vampire books… The ones that show dark, obsessive “love” as romantic? There’s nothing romantic in something that will slowly but surely steal your confidence, joy, and ability to act in your own best interest. There’s nothing romantic about a person who frightens you.
2. What do you think teens should know in order to stay safe in a relationship?
I think it’s important to be smart and know the warning signs of a potentially abusive partner. Getting involved quickly, intensity, possessiveness, jealousy - these are things that might not seem like a big deal unless you’re aware that they are indicators of serious trouble ahead. But, even more, it’s important to listen to ourselves. Things can go wrong slowly, and there are always those little red flags at the beginning, those times when we think, “Huh? What was THAT?” We ignore that voice sometimes, though, because the “love” or excitement or approval feels so good right then. We might see red flags, but not want to see. Our strong need/desire for the relationship can cause us to explain away the worrisome things we see. But, “He wants me” is not the same thing as “He loves me.” And that little voice inside going, “Hey, wait. There’s something wrong here” – it knows.
3. Are there any resources for teens that you would recommend? (websites, phone numbers, groups, etc.)
The first thing I would suggest if you find yourself in a situation like Clara’s (or any other type of abusive relationship) is to start talking – to friends, family, teachers, counselors. People on the bus. The mail lady. Anyone. Your reality gets very twisted up, and it’s crucial to hear voices of clarity. Having someone say, “He/she did WHAT?!” is a first step to seeing straight and getting out. Their outrage and sense of what’s normal is hugely important, as you’ve likely lost both of those things. You can also call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-866-331-9474. One site for teens: www.loveisrespect.org.
4. What do you hope teenagers take from reading STAY?
If STAY helps readers recognize what this kind of relationship abuse looks like, how it builds, how complicated your feelings become, and the long-lasting damage it can do, then I am one happy writer. Too, I hope readers will see that anyone can find themselves in that place. Clara is “anyone.” I get really upset with the people (often other women, even more often very young women), who say, “Not me. Never me. She’s an idiot. I would NEVER…” It’s arrogant, unkind, and naïve. The slope from here to there is slippery and complex, and the effect one person can have on another – on their confidence, strength, and their capacity to take action – can be profound and dramatic.
I hope readers will also take away the fact that abuse is always bigger than you are. The issues that drive someone to do those things are not solvable or cured by your love or reassurance or even by you setting down the rules of what you’ll put up with. There is no approach you can take to make it “work.” The most important thing is this: real love does not ever, ever cause you to feel small, trapped, or scared. Real love is safe.
Stay by Deb Caletti
Publisher: Simon Pulse (April 5th, 2011)
Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 313 pages
Clara's relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it's almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he's willing to do to make her stay.
Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won't let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....
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