Title: WE COULD BE
Genre: YA contemporary
Word Count: 81,000
How Did You Fall for Writing:
I did not learn to read or write until second grade, when my teacher used phonetic-based techniques to teach the necessary skills. After a frustrating year of trying and failing to do something those around me did with ease, I finally comprehended these two fantastic abilities. It felt like I had been given a superpower. I could travel worlds while sitting in my living room chair. Even more exciting, I could make my own worlds with just a pencil and paper. I never looked back. I just wrote. And read. And wrote some more.
Sixteen-year-old Brandon regularly filters everyday events through a fantasy world and tries to avoid unwanted emotions by morphing into B16, his robot alter ego. Though his parents disapprove of his tactics, his older sister Angie draws detailed depictions of his world into sketchbooks and takes B16 on missions when their parents aren’t home.
When Angie shocks everyone by running away two months before her graduation, Brandon decides to become a hero and joins forces with Timmy, Angie’s boyfriend, to find her. Using drawings found within a newly-discovered sketchbook of Angie’s as their guide, Brandon and Timmy travel across state lines to the Magical Forest (AKA, Denver, CO)—a trip fraught with wrong turns, faulty exhaust systems, several B16 missions, and some unexpected male-bonding.
At the end of the journey, the heroes succeed in finding Angie… only something is wrong. Angie has always been Brandon’s rock, but the Angie they find is erratic, vulnerable, and somehow still lost. Timmy breaks down, convinced he’s the one who caused Angie to question herself and run. Since Timmy seems brainwashed into believing he’s a villain and B16 doesn’t have complex problem-solving capability, it’s up to Brandon himself to figure out how to convince Angie her dreams are worth fighting for before the trio arrives home—where parents will be waiting and armed with powerful consequences. In the process, Brandon learns he, without B16’s help, has the capability to confront problems more deftly than he ever thought he could.
I have degrees in psychology and social work, and I have worked as a behavioral health therapist for seven years in an outpatient setting. WE COULD BE has been read for accuracy of the Autism Spectrum Disorder by two mental health professionals, a Behavioral Specialist who works for the West Virginia Center of Excellence in Disabilities, and a father of a teenage son who is on the spectrum.
First 250 words:
“Secrets are when you keep what another person said or did to yourself, no matter what, because you’re a good person and you love them.”
Angie taught me about secrets shortly after her ninth birthday. I’d found her crouched on the counter in the kitchen, her hand reaching into the cabinet. She paused in her task long enough to give me the lesson before she pulled out a half-eaten bag of Oreos and jumped to the floor.
“So…” Angie straightened. “Are you a good person?”
I felt, even back then, I was good. I listened in class and obeyed Mrs. Prettyman’s rules. I got gold stars in occupational therapy, and, even if I screamed at Mom or Dad, the altercation always ended quietly with them rubbing my back as I lay in bed.
“And do you love me?”
“Of course,” I answered. “You’re my sister.”
“Then promise you’ll keep this a secret, B7. Remember about promises?”
I nodded again, eyes on the item in her hands. Of course I remembered; she’d taught me about promises only a month before.
“Good.” She grinned and opened the bag. “Now. Go get the milk.”
Angie taught me a lot of things growing up. In fourth grade, when Benny laughed on the bus and I laughed also, she taught me my therapist was wrong when she talked about mirroring, that sometimes it wasn’t the best way to handle a situation. Angie yelled this lesson to me from the front seat by Mr. Morris after she punched Benny out.