Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Red Sheet - Mia Kerick

One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.
Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.
Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.
Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.
With a foreword by C. Kennedy
Book Links:
I’m not gonna shit you on this next part either, ’cause this is my story, which is all about calling a spade a spade. You may not get my reasons, and I’m not asking you to. But just keep an open mind, hear this story out, and we can try to make sense of it later.
So, anyways, once I held that little pillowcase tight in my hands—I knew exactly what I was gonna do with it, and I didn’t hesitate for a second in getting it done. I tucked one end of the material into the neck of my Appleton High School baseball hoodie, so that it lay down the length of my back right over my hood. Then, timing it right with the traffic flow, I stepped up onto the wall, raised my arms like you-know-who would do… and yeah, I took a great big leap.
“Up, up, and away” is not how I’d describe what happened next. Instead, I dropped right down on the brownish fall grass like a lead balloon. Landed on both feet, twisted the left ankle pretty good, and my palms broke the rest of the fall. Thankfully, my chin was the only part of my face that hit the dirt. Teeth: intact.
For a couple of minutes I lay there, trying to make sense of what had just happened. And I’m gonna just put what I came up with out there for you, so get ready.
I felt like Superman.
After all, I’d jumped because I’d been testing a theory that I actually was Superman incarnate in the form of an Appleton High School junior. (Save your commentary for a more appropriate time.)
So, I thought back to my childhood and my limited knowledge of this particular superhero that came from a few current movies, a rerun or two of the oldies on late-night TV, and a couple of comics I’d pulled out of my Christmas stockings. Growing up, I was really much more into sports—LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal—these guys had been my heroes. But, as I lay on the ground, maybe rolling around and moaning a bit in pain and clutching my twisted ankle, I tried to recall everything I knew about Superman.
I wasn’t exactly sure where he got his power, but I was pretty sure he had superhuman strength. And I remembered that he was invulnerable to harm and a very fast healer. I couldn’t check the box next to “fast healer” as a way in which I was similar to Superman, because I’d gotten hurt in my eight-foot leap, and my ankle seemed to be getting worse by the second, not better.
Superhuman speed. Nope, I couldn’t check that box either, seeing as I had been late for school yesterday, and it looked like I was gonna be late again today. And then there were Superman’s senses. Didn’t he have X-ray vision? He could see through solid objects, right? So I looked up to see if my backpack was still resting on the ground beside the sidewalk, on the other side of the stone wall, but all I could see was stone wall. And shouldn’t I have been able to smell the delicious egg scramble omelet with my name on it that was waiting for me in the school cafeteria? I mean, I surely would have been able to, if I had Superman’s enhanced sense of smell, right? And shouldn’t I be able to hear the late bell ringing, right about now, for that matter, from exactly where I was—one block from the school? But I only smelled the scent of the rotting fall leaves that surrounded me and heard just the sporadic rush of traffic on the street above.
And then there was the whole flying thing. The phrases “it’s a bird, it’s a plane” and “able to leap tall buildings” were ingrained in my mind as descriptive of Superman. Not so much for Bryan Dennison, though, even with the red (pillowcase) cape streaming behind him.
What it seemed to come down to was that I felt like Superman, but I wasn’t Superman. No strange other-planet-like chemical reaction had occurred in my bloodstream on Sunday night while I’d slept to cause a magical physical change to occur in me that had created superpowers. No, the only change that had occurred was in my head. I had somehow developed a compelling urge to protect the innocent. It was as if I suddenly knew, or maybe I suddenly cared about, the difference between right and wrong, whereas I clearly hadn’t before. And I was willing to act on my new convictions.
I tried to push myself up off the ground, but my arms shook—too weak from the fall. So, getting back to the superhuman-strength thing I mentioned before, it definitely wasn’t happening here. So I couldn’t check that box either.
It looked like I was merely Superman of Intention. I had limits.
And so, as I accomplished what it was I knew I had to accomplish in the town of Appleton, or, in other words, as I protected the innocent in this small community I had somehow become responsible for, I would need to work within these limits: no superhuman strength or speed or senses, no flying or fast-healing abilities. (As a matter of fact, I might very well need to see the school nurse about an Ace bandage as soon as I got to school.) All I had to work with was just regular old Bryan Dennison—a man with a
new motivation, a deep uncertainty as to how I’d acquired this new motivation, some major memory lapses when it came to Scott Beckett, a group of very athletic and very arrogant friends, a twisted ankle, and a new set of red sheets.
Wish me luck.
I think I’m gonna need it.

Guest Post:

Hi, thank you for inviting me over to your blog.

Why are we as a society so obsessed by superheroes?

In my opinion, the reason our society is obsessed by the concept of the superhero is simple and can be summed up in one word: hope. The superhero offers us unquestionable, even incomprehensible, hope in the form of someone we can relate to in our everyday lives.

While writing The Red Sheet, I became aware of the abundance of YA novels that dealt with the superhero concept, and specifically, that there are more than a few YA LGBTQ novels that are devoted to this very theme. This fact did not deter my desire to put forth my take on a teenaged superhero story. Why not, you may wonder. Isn’t the whole superman thing a “been there, done that” kind of topic? But where there is an extremely difficult and pervasive societal problem, such as teenaged bullying, there is also a desire in many for the existence of a force to counter that problem. To police our lives, in a sense. To make things right where an innocent has been wronged. And thus, the need for a superhero story.

Bryan Dennison is an unlikely superhero, as he crossed over from “the other side”; he actually rather mystically morphed overnight from the arch villain into the ultimate good guy. As such, he is a character we can all relate to in both forms.  And in his “good guy” form, we can relate to his struggles as a human being, while simultaneously recognizing his superhero-like calling to police society, with no other agenda than to do what is right.

Bryan deals with issues relevant to teens, such as respecting parents and teachers, dealing with others honestly, behaving fairly in sports, and assisting those less fortunate. And yes, he must face The Red Sheets’ big issue: bullying at the high school level, both in and out of the school building. In this case, the specific issue Bryan must address is the bullying of a fellow high school junior, Scott Beckett, who he also happens to be in love with.

And in case you are wondering, the “red sheet” in question is symbolic of Bryan’s overwhelming urge to tie a red sheet around his neck and wear it like a Superman cape…

Find out how Bryan counters high school bullying.

IN GOOD COMPANY!! Other super hero YA LGBTQ novels I came across in a very brief search:

Book Links:
About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.
Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.
My themes I always write about:
Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes- only love can save them.

Author Links:

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  1. Hi!! Thanks for inviting me over to guest post!! What a great site!!

  2. Loved your post, Mia. And you're right, there's always room for a new take on the superhero idea. I'm a huge comic book and superhero fan and have read lots of variations, and I look forward to reading this one too.