There are always two sides to a story. In her new young adult novel “Unforgivable,” Asheville author Amy Reed delves into the flipside of a story she began with last year’s “Invincible,” which centered on Evie, a teen who overcomes cancer only to fall into addiction. Reed will launch “Unforgivable” at Malaprop’s on May 11 as part of a three-author YA panel.
“Invincible” ended with a cliffhanger, which is where “Unforgivable” picks up. But instead of revolving around Evie, it’s narrated by Marcus, the boy Evie’s family believes led her into a spiral of self-destructive behavior. But all is not as it seems. Through Marcus’s first-person story, Reed reveals how a family’s history of damage have caused the teen to bury his feelings of pain deep down while outwardly his behavior appears reckless and thoughtless.
Throughout “Unforgivable,” Marcus endures the consequences of choices made by his family members while at the same time having to confront society’s perceptions of him as a young black man. The emotional toll of all this — along with being cut off from Evie — leads to both crisis and redemption.
The story structure in “Unforgivable” is experimental, with some short chapters that are just fragments of a scene. The voice, style and structure add up to a convincing portrait of a teen boy at a critical crossroad in his life.
“Unforgivable” is Reed’s seventh novel, all of which explore topics that have been described as gritty, gutsy and dark. Addiction and self-harm are prominent themes for Reed. The teen years, she says, were for her a time when “all the stakes seemed really high,” and she captures that emotional intensity in her work.
By creating characters whose teen years are chaotic and sometimes out of control, she has reached readers who are experiencing the same kind of turbulence, offering reassurance and connection. Fans have told her that knowing there are others going through the same kinds of things makes them feel less alone, she says.
Along with Reed, two Charlotte authors will appear on the panel: Robin Constantine, the author of three YA novels, including “The Season of You and Me,” to be released in June, about an unexpected summer romance, and Amber Smith, whose debut novel, “The Way I Used to Be,” explores the fallout when a girl is raped by her brother’s friend and she keeps it a secret.Robin Constantine (Photo: Courtesy photo)