Jessica Warman's Between is now published in the UK, and Jessica has written a great guest post for me as part of the blog tour. In case you don't know what the book is about, here's a summary from egmont.co.uk:
Only the good die young. Right?
Elizabeth Valchar has it all: friends, money, beauty, a cute boyfriend and assured popularity. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she is found drowned next to her parents’ boat.
Everyone thinks it was a tragic accident – teens drinking on a boat, a misstep leading to a watery death. But Liz is still here after death, and she doesn’t know why. There are gaps in her memory.
Her only company Alex, a boy killed by a car a year earlier, Liz sets out to piece together her life.
But their small coastal town is hiding many secrets – about families, boyfriends and friendship. Plus, Alex hates Liz for being mean when they were alive. Was she as squeaky clean as she thinks she was? Could it be that she herself is hiding the biggest secret of all?
Can Liz discover the truth? And if she does, who can she tell?
An engrossing, compelling thriller that peels back the layers of small-town life to expose true, ugly, cruel human nature.
Hope you enjoy, and thanks again to Jessica!
As I’ve gotten older (I’m thirty), I find myself reflecting on the past quite a bit, thinking of how things might have turned out differently if I’d made different choices. The question of regret is interesting and complex to me, because so often life is such a gray area when it comes the validity of our choices.
Here’s a specific example for you: I began my college career at a prestigious private university, where I’d been given a full scholarship. For some reason, I couldn’t get comfortable there. In hindsight, I don’t really understand why. I had good friends, and we had plenty of fun times in that first semester. I enjoyed my classes. I had a boyfriend. Everything was good – but for some reason, I decided to leave. To my parents’ immense disappointment, I transferred to a large (non-prestigious, academically unremarkable) state school, where I didn’t have a scholarship.
The first time I stepped into my new dorm room at that new school, my roommate was sitting on the floor playing a video game (Tony Hawk Pro Skater) with a boy who, I would later learn, lived just a few doors down the hall from us. He turned around to look at me – the new girl – and I’m not kidding you at all: the moment I saw his face, I felt a jolt of something go through my body. It was the first time in my life that I’d met someone and felt instantly connected to them. I was a goner.
Two years later, I married that boy. This year we will celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary.
A few months ago, my husband and I took a road trip and stopped to visit the school where I spent my first semester. I was astonished to realize that it was beautiful in pretty much every way: a gorgeous campus in an intimate setting in a lovely small town. And I’d had a full scholarship! What in the world ever motivated me to leave?
It was an odd feeling that day at my old school, as I walked around campus, considering all the ways my life might have turned out differently if I’d stayed. Even my husband said to me, “you’d have to be crazy to transfer from this place.” And he’s right. I still don’t really understand why I left. All I know is that, if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have met him. Our two daughters would not exist. Everything would be different. It was strange to consider that idea, the possibility that there was a whole other life waiting in the wings for me, depending on what I chose. To be clear, I don’t regret any of my decisions; but what if things had unfolded differently? What if I’d never met my husband, or had a terrible time at my new school? Would I have spent the last 12 years wondering why the hell I ever chose to leave that beautiful little campus behind, regretting my decision to do so?
I think it comes down to this: it’s not productive to regret choices we made, when we had no possible way of predicting their outcome. We’re all doing the best we can, struggling together to keep our lives full and organized and satisfying. It’s not always easy. Life is full of missteps for everyone, no matter how prepared we might try to be. A bad decision (or many bad decisions) doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad person.
When I think about the things in my life that I truly regret – the things that eat away at me sometimes – there is one common thread weaving them all together. I regret the times in my life when I chose anger over compassion, cruelty over kindness, or my own self-interest over a greater good. What’s most interesting to me about this is that I regret these actions regardless of their consequences. It’s not a matter of thinking, “If I’d been kinder, the situation would have had a better outcome.” It’s only: I should have been kinder. Period. End of thought.
I think this is an important theme in BETWEEN, because Liz’s life is full of regrets. But when you examine her poor choices, you aren’t necessarily meant to come away from the book thinking, “well, if she’d been nicer, everything would have turned out differently.” The outcome isn’t really the point; it’s her actions that matter. At any given time, all we have is this moment. Nobody can predict the way our lives will unfold; even the most careful planning can be thwarted in a split second. What’s important, I think, is to be able to look back on life and say, “I did my best to be kind to others.” If I’m able to do that, I don’t think there is much room for regret.