It’s fate or something that just when I start writing this post in the passenger seat of my car, my husband drives past Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. My fingers leave the keyboard and I look up. It’s dark outside and the distinctive architecture of the Marine Corps museum cuts into the sky. I can’t see much else, but I’ve been there before and I can imagine the exhibits inside, discovered during a special trip with one of my best friends almost exactly a year after I’ll Meet You There sold to Macmillan. I’d visited on Memorial Day weekend, which included a visit to the famous Iwo Jima Marine Corps memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. For a lot of people, Memorial Day is a holiday, meant for barbecues and sleeping in. But in Washington DC, it’s more than that. And suddenly, for me, it became more than that, too. You don’t write a book about a nineteen-year-old Marine who loses his leg in Afghanistan and forget what Memorial Day means.
I’ll Meet You There is a love story about a really good girl who’s been dealt a really bad hand, and a bad boy trying to make good after one bomb changes his life forever. It’s also a story about war, poverty, death, grief, and how you can find beauty in unexpected places. And one other thing: it’s about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). A lot of my younger readers might not have any idea what that combination of letters mean, but that doesn’t exempt them from being touched by it. So many readers have reached out to me to say that they have a family member, friend, or someone else suffering from PTSD in their community. When I started working on the book, I was surprised that so few YA novels featured youth in the military. You can join the Marines when you’re seventeen. I remember recruiters being on my high school campus and hearing about who in my senior class were thinking about enlisting. Both my parents were Marines who joined as teenagers and my dad had served in the Gulf War. Yet despite growing up in a family with many service members, I didn’t realize that PTSD affected my personal life until after I started working on I’ll Meet You There.
My dad has PTSD. This is something that he continues to struggle with, even though the war he fought in was over twenty years ago. Ever since I could remember, my dad struggled with drugs and alcohol and his sobriety was hard fought. I had never made a real connection between his battle with addiction and his experiences as a Marine. I think I’d had a few passing thoughts about it, but once I met Josh Mitchell, the Marine in my book, and began researching and reaching out to Marines and Soldiers who had deployments in Iraq or Afghanistan, I realized that my dad was just like them—the war is never really, truly over. PTSD can manifest in many ways. In Josh, we see that he has a short fuse, vivid flashbacks, nightmares, and an attempt to medicate with drugs and alcohol. Things in his daily environment might set off a painful memory or make him forget he’s not in a battle zone. Sometimes he will react to things as though he’s in Afghanistan, surrounded by enemies. A Marine I spoke to who struggles with PTSD described it as a “combat switch” that can sometimes get turned on.
To find out more about I'll Meet You There, click on the book cover below.
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