Stuff I probably shouldn’t tell you…
I’ll be honest, this is an odd little book. I wrote it more out of necessity than intention (in fact, the initial idea hit me with such insistence that I had to pull over no less than six times on a drive home from a YA Conference in Denver to write it down).
Leading up to that day, nine students at the school where I teach killed themselves, a mother wrote me a letter about her son who killed himself, and someone close to me attempted suicide. So I felt surrounded by the issue and I wanted to do something about it.
The more I looked into books on suicide, though, the less satisfied I was with how a lot of fiction was addressing it. Some books seemed to glorify suicide, while others were so depressing that by the end of the book I wanted to curl up and disappear. But as a teacher, and a person, I’d seen too many lives be impacted by suicide and other self-destructive behaviors to stay silent.
In writing Backwards, I wanted to grapple with the seriousness of suicide (and other difficult issues like bullying), while also writing an engaging, entertaining, and hopefully uplifting story. The only way I could think of to do this was to have the story be narrated by a character who’s traveling backwards in time. So the book begins with both a death and a birth, as the narrator comes into this world. What happens afterwards (or before) is something I hope you’ll read to find out.
One more confession… initially, I thought Backwards would be a simple story, but it ended up being the most complex and challenging thing I’ve ever written. Throughout it all, Candlewick has been incredibly supportive of the project, and the book design they’ve done is amazing. I’ve never seen a book like it before. I hope you’ll pick up a copy. Here’s the opening paragraph if you’re curious (check out that nifty backwards title font):