Polarity in Motion
by Brenda Vicars
Paperback/eBook, 255 pages
Published December 2014 by Red Adept Publishing, LLC
Fifteen-year-old Polarity Weeks just wants to live a normal life, but with a mother diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, that’s rarely easy. Her life gets exponentially more disastrous when her sixth-period history classmates start ogling a nude picture of her on the Internet. Polarity would never have struck such a shameless pose, but the photo is definitely of her, and she’s at a complete loss to explain its existence.
Child Protective Services yanks her from her home, suspecting her parents. The kids at school mock her, assuming she took it herself. And Ethan, the boy she was really starting to like, backpedals and joins the taunting chorus. Surrounded by disbelief and derision on all sides, Polarity desperately seeks the truth among her friends. Only then does she learn that everyone has dark secrets, and no one’s life is anywhere near normal.
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I was the last student in the freshman class to know. Well, almost the last—Ethan found out from me.
It all came out during sixth period, when the teacher left the classroom unsupervised. Danny, the big bad guy of Star Ninth Grade Center, leaned back in his chair and scratched his belly. “Yuck! Hill’s got dog breath—ruff, ruff!—today.”
Kids snickered, and immature silliness broke out all over the room. The computer lab desks were arranged in a big square, with everyone facing inward, and so even while studying my screen, I couldn’t help witnessing some of the nonsense.
Across the room, Danny stood and stretched with a loud-groaning yawn. “Damn, Coach ran our butts hard this morning.” He leaned forward and rubbed his hands on the front of his thighs.
Cynthia, the super-crimped blonde sitting next to him, pulled makeup out of her purse. “You know, you’re just the water boy.” She added another coat of mascara to her already loaded lashes.
Danny’s grin drooped. His skin, usually the same straw color as his short spiky hair, gained a pink glow. “I’m in the relays. I’m running every day.”
Drawing on fluorescent blue eyeliner, Cynthia crooned, “Ooooo, relays. Yippee.”
“Yeah, Cyn, come watch me this afternoon. We can have a little sin after practice. Heh, heh, heh.” He checked around the room, as if to see who got his joke.
I slumped lower to use my computer screen as a barrier. In the chair next to me, Ethan, the one black guy in the class, remained totally focused on his research. Not only did he act older than the other boys, but he looked older—more muscular and taller than my dad’s six-foot-two. Ethan’s strong jaw, straight nose, and deep, dark eyes conveyed an air of confidence.
I envied him because he automatically fit into a group—small in this school, but still a group. The group of black students. It was my fourth week at Star, and since there were only two weeks left until summer break, I had settled into the role of trailer-park outcast. I didn’t see the point in trying to schmooze into a clique. I figured Mom would want to move again before school started, anyway.
How did Polarity’s story come about?
What a great question! How did Polarity’s story come about?
I love trouble—not the inciting incident of it but its aftermath. After people have experienced the most hellacious, unbelievable thing they could ever have imagined, there’s a healing period of time when survivors tap into their deepest reserves of strength and find a path to their new normal. This is the part I love especially when their new normal is more authentic than the old was.
In my job as an educator, I’ve worked with lots of young people who’ve been in that spot where everything they’ve counted on has collapsed, and the only thing they’ve got left is their own resiliency. So Polarity’s story is about a girl who finds herself in a living nightmare when her nude picture hits the Internet. Her notoriety and legal problems could ruin her life, including her fledgling connection with the guy of her dreams—Ethan. And, on top of the flack in her external world, Polarity’s ever-unraveling, borderline personality mother complicates life at the deepest emotional level.
So my love for trouble’s aftermath is the general answer to the question of how Polarity’s story came about. But there’s also a sharp trigger for her story: fear. My fear. For eight years I was a hearing officer for a school district. This meant that if a student, who had been removed for disciplinary reasons, wanted to appeal his or her case, I made the decision. I lay awake worrying many nights about whether a student’s punishment was just and whether a mistake had been made. Is it possible that a student could be kicked out of school in error? Can the system fail? I hope that none of my students were unjustly punished, but I’m afraid that it could happen, and Polarity’s story is one way that it could.
About the author
She entered education because she felt called to teach, but her students taught her the biggest lesson: the playing field is not even for all kids. Through her work, she became increasingly compelled to bring their unheard voices to the page. The heartbeat of her fiction emanates from the courage and resiliency of her students.
Brenda’s hobbies include reading, woodworking, gardening, and Zumba.