16-year-old Ava didn’t take many selfies, so maybe those school pictures came in handy after all.
Dear Teen Me,
The good news about the divorce is you’ll never blame yourself. You know from the day Mom sits you down at 13 to tell you your life as a kid with two parents who live in the same house is over, exactly who’s fault it is, and you know, very clearly, it’s not yours.
Unfortunately, for a long time, that’s about the only good news.
I’m going to be honest with you, the next six years are going to be rough. You, your two sisters, and your mom are going to move into your grandma’s tiny two bedroom home for a summer—the one that’s about the size of your previous home’s kitchen and living room. You’re going to be The Strong One your sisters look up to, and you think being The Strong One is temporary, and it is—as long as you consider six years temporary.
About a week before you start your new school, you’ll finally move in to your new home. It’s larger than your grandma’s, but nowhere near what Used to Be. It’s small, and creaky, and the radiators are unreliable, and there isn’t air conditioning, but you won’t care. It’s home.
Your new school is nothing like your old one, but you are nothing like the old you, so it’s okay. You’ll retreat into yourself and into books, and that’s okay because it’ll lead to the one really, really awesome thing about your teen years: you’ll figure out you want to be an author. It’ll be a little over ten years before that dream comes true, but Future You is in your debt, 13, because your job is pretty amazing now.
I wish I could tell you things are going to get easier quickly, 13, but the next six years will be anything but. You’ll learn what it’s like to worry about not being able to pay the bills long before you get your first job. You’ll learn what it’s like to develop an anxiety disorder on your 16th birthday, like a superpower but not nearly as cool or fun, and even though you’ll ace AP Psych, you won’t recognize the symptoms in yourself until after you’ve nearly left those teen years behind. You’ll also learn what it’s like to experience stomach acrobatics when you hear the words “I think we might lose the house,” and you’ll learn what it’s like to smile and pretend everything is okay for your sisters when your world is crumbling around you.
Dear 13, there will come a time when you won’t be able to visit your father anymore, because it hurts too much to go back to your old town, with old friends you can’t see, and be surrounded by his very nice house, with his very nice new things, and see again, and again, and again, the widening gap between What Was and What Is, between What Is for Him and What Is for You. There will come a time when visiting just makes you angry, and bitter, and it’s too painful for you to take anymore. He’s going to tell you it’s not okay when you stop visiting, 13, but you’re just taking care of yourself, and that’s all that matters. You won’t learn this for a while yet, but taking care of yourself first is more than okay—it’s essential.
Those six years are going to be really, really hard, 13, but I promise you’ll all come out of this okay. You’ll all recover slowly, a day at a time, and you’ll remember what it’s like to not have to worry quite so much. You’ll learn how to put yourself first again, and though you won’t be able to reclaim those years, you’ll finally be able to do those things you should have been doing as a teen, like realizing skirts and long hair really aren’t your thing (that’s okay too, by the way. You’ll rock that pixie cut).
Dear 13, you’re going to get what you want most: you’ll see your words published in an actual book you can hold in your hands, and you’ll be happy and so proud of a thing you made. Things are rough right now, 13, and they’re going to be for a while. But you’re going to get through it, and when you come out on the other side, you’ll be stronger, and happier, and your YA book collection will be really quite impressive, at least to you.
You’ll do all right, 13. That, I can promise you.
17-year-old Ava wasn’t sure how this pic happened, but the results were accidentally fun.
Beyond the Red by Ava Jae
Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.
Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.
When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.
Ava Jae is a writer, an Assistant Editor at Entangled Publishing, and is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. Her YA Sci-Fi debut, BEYOND THE RED, is releasing March 1, 2016 from Sky Pony Press. When she’s not writing about kissing, superpowers, explosions, and aliens, you can find her with her nose buried in a book, nerding out over the latest X-Men news, or hanging out on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, Goodreads, Instagram, or YouTube channel.