by Megan Crewe
Even though my first novel, GIVE UP THE GHOST, is about a girl who can talk to ghosts, and I’ve never seen a ghost, I brought many pieces of my life to the book. The biggest piece–which shaped my main character Cass’s history–was inspired by something related to me eight years before I started writing GHOST.
I was in high school, the same age Cass is in the novel (16), hanging out with fellow swim team members at our end-of-the-school-year party. A few of the younger girls told me a story about someone they’d known who, in their words, had gone crazy. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and a few days later, I wrote about it in my journal:
“The girls (who had once been her friends) decided [the crazy girl] wasn’t cool enough and ditched her. One went so far as to tell her she didn’t like her, so go away. They would all move to a new table if the girl sat with them at lunch. One time, when the girl was in the hospital, she wanted to find out what homework she’d missed. She called all these people (her once-friends) and none of them would tell her, just because they didn’t like her. Oh, wait, it was that she wanted them to come and bring her the homework. Which is more extreme, but still. She ended up lying, saying she was in the hospital ’cause her dad beat her. And they wonder why she did that. Hello? For some attention maybe. How would they feel if suddenly no one liked them, and was very obvious about it? But no, it’s not any of their faults she ended up in a mental institution. She was crazy! It was all her fault.”
Even though I’d never known the supposedly crazy girl myself, that story stuck with me. The way these girls had turned on a former friend so blatantly. The way they then used her subsequent odd behavior as justification to continue shunning her in a horrible vicious cycle, without seeming to (or perhaps refusing to) recognize that their actions had played any part in what was happening to her. All of my sympathy went to the victim, and I’ve often wondered what happened to her in the following years.
So it’s probably not surprising that when considering why Cass might have shut herself off from the world of living, I decided that her distrust and suspicion of her classmates was based on the somewhat random ostracization she’d suffered at the hands of her best friend, back in junior high. It gave me a chance to explore that situation and the ways it might play out (albeit with a supernatural twist). And I think by seeing Cass come into her own as a character, and then gradually start to heal, it let me believe that other teens who’ve experienced the same thing might get through it and come out okay. I hope that if any of those teens have read the book, it helped them believe, too.
Megan Crewe is a Canadian young adult writer whose first book, GIVE UP THE GHOST, was published last fall by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. She lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and two cats, and spends most of her free time reading, traveling, and learning kung fu. To find out more about how real life inspired her novel, visit the Behind The Story section of her website (http://www.megancrewe.com/ ).