One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.
Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.
Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.
Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.
With a foreword by C. Kennedy
On Tuesday night, the two of us had spent the evening in front of my laptop in my bedroom, studying Gandhi and brainstorming ideas.
Thankfully, all the snow had melted by Wednesday night, which had provided me with unimpaired canvases for my artsy message. And Mom was so cool. She had actually been complicit with me in my crime, which wasn’t so much a crime, because, as I said, chalk washes off. (I chose to think of this as more of a Gandhi-esque act of affirmative civil disobedience.) It had taken me about two hours to accomplish the entire project: from midnight until 2:00 a.m., Mom had held the giant flashlight for me.
I originally published my review on 19 Feb. It is reprinted here in it’s entirety.
If you are looking for a schmaltzy High School romance, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a gritty angst-ridden portrayal of a victim, again look elsewhere. If you want a unique look at the effects of bullying and abuse on LGBT youth from the perspective of the perpetrator on his journey to realization and redemption,The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick is the book for you.
The Red Sheet had me in awe from beginning to end. Honestly, I don’t feel worthy to review it; I just hope I can do it justice.
The tone for The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick is set from first page with a beautifully powerful foreword written by fellow Harmony Ink Press author, Cody Kennedy.
TO BULLY is to commit an act of violence, even if only in subtle ways. From the nasty homecoming queen who accuses you of transmitting a virulent disease when you accidentally brush her backpack in the hall; to the creep who knocks your book off your desk, then kicks it down the aisle in class–then kicks you where it counts when you bend to retrieve it; to the cool guy in school who is certain you’re diseased and says “get the hell away from me” when you try to sit next to him—in the last open seat on the bus; to the loser who punches, kicks, and shoves you repeatedly simply because you’re there; make no mistake, bullying is the most prevalent form of violent abuse in society.
Kennedy goes on to draw you a picture of today’s youth that will scare any parent out there, and, hopefully, make any person out there think twice about their words and actions. Bullying isn’t a new thing, and it isn’t limited to LGBT or youth. As I sit here with my 2 youngest children by my side watching a rather popular cartoon aimed at the 2-4 year old crowd, I am hearing things come out of the characters mouths that make me cringe. It brings me right back to the lessons taught from word one of The Red Sheet.
The Red Sheet drew me in and wouldn’t let go. Once I did put the book down for the night, I dreamed about Bryan and Scott. It then waited not so patiently through the next day, calling to me, until I could pick it up again and finish the story. It isn’t the ending you would expect, but it is a fitting ending.
The “change” in Bryan lends The Red Sheet a bit of a fantastical air, but as you journey with Bryan, you understand the depth and beauty of the story. Bryan is a bastard, but as he discovers little bits about his true level of douchebaggery, he grows as a person.
Looking at the world with his frightened and egotistical eyes
In the end, he comes full circle as he accepts who he was, what he did, who he is now, and, most importantly, whom he wants to be.
I love that Scott doesn’t let Bryan off the hook for his past actions, just because he says he has “changed”.
“You really hurt me. And I’ll probably never forget how much… like, I think it’s something that is going to always stay with me.”
I love that, though Bryan was part of the “worst night of [Scott’s] life”, Scott, slowly, becomes receptive to what Bryan has to say. You see the effects of the abuse through the eyes of the abuser. In the case of Bryan, it is a perspective of regret and repentance. I love that, though Bryan is trying to “be the change that [he wishes] to see” in himself, he does not end up perfect.
I want to leave you with one of my favorite passages from The Red Sheet.
… to a profound and permanent change. Without the miraculous “forgetting” everything that had come before, I couldn’t have relearned right and wrong. Without the complete blank spot in my memory, I couldn’t have filled it with the positive characteristics of the new me.
“My life is my message.”
These words almost bring me to tears because of their simple truth of Gandhi’s life. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t merely tell people the way they should conduct themselves. He acted as a living message of courage, nonviolence, and harmony. In my newest release, The Red Sheet, Bryan Dennison becomes inexplicably compelled to be a better person; to live a live more like that of his new role model Mahatma Gandhi. He becomes helpful at home, of service to the elderly in his community, a savior of helpless animals, an activist for keeping the environment green, and one who embraces total honesty in all situations. He also experiences a gripping urge to stand up for those who are socially harassed, while trying to keep the peace at all times.
At one point in the book, Bryan’s urge to express his need to change his high school into a different and better world becomes so overwhelming, that he resorts to using colorful sidewalk chalk to literally write the inspired messages of Gandhi all over and around his school building.
He scrawled, “YOU MUST BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD” on the cement directly in front of the school so everyone who enters the building will be exposed to this ultimate and basic piece of Gandhi’s wisdom. EVERYBODY LISTEN—don’t wait for someone else to take up the cross—BE THE CHANGE!!
In recent days, Bryan had experienced physical assault at the hands of the basketball team, but he chose not to react violently. He wrote, “AN EYE FOR AN EYE ONLY ENDS UP MAKING THE WHOLE WORLD BLIND” on the basketball court.
In an effort to make a statement about the lack of concern for the environment being displayed by the cafeteria staff, he printed, “THE GOOD MAN IS THE FRIEND OF ALL LIVING THINGS”, on the exterior brick wall of the cafeteria.
On the exterior wall of the library, Bryan appropriately left an inspirational message about the importance of learning. “LIVE AS IF YOU WERE TO DIE TOMORROW. LEARN AS IF YOU WERE TO LIVE FOREVER.”
“I SUPPOSE LEADERSHIP AT ONE TIME MEANT MUSCLES; BUT TODAY IT MEANS GETTING ALONG WITH PEOPLE”, he scrawled across the parking lot because he had learned that a better way to make changes take place was to simply talk to people rather than to intimidate them.
“And finally, on the interior wall of the courtyard that the cafeteria directly faced (no one could eat lunch without seeing it), he penned “INTOLERANCE IS ITSELF A FORM OF VIOLENCE AND AN OBSTACLE TO THE GROWTH OF A TRUE DEMOCRATIC SPIRIT.”
These messages, brought to the eyes and minds of high school students, are the essence of the change that Bryan Dennison rather mysteriously experienced in the early parts of The Red Sheet, to which he spends nearly the entire novel reacting. But there is yet one more Gandhi message that he must absorb, as well as entice his former bullying victim to accept, that of forgiveness. Here’s the scene:
Scott looked down at the note in his hand, and then he read Mahatma Gandhi’s words, ones I’d chosen specifically for him, right back to me. “‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ Scott, you are so very strong. I know you can forgive me.” He stopped reading and looked up at me. “I want you to read the rest to me.”
I didn’t need to look at the note. I knew exactly what it said. So instead I gazed right into his eyes that were so clear and blue and bright and intelligent. “‘My life is my message.’ I’ve really changed, Scotty. Just watch me and you’ll see.”
Forgiveness is a beautiful concept in general, but here, Bryan brings it to real life in the form of a direct personal plea to be forgiven.
Gandhi’s messages ring of their truth and are quite uplifting in theory. However, if we make an effort, we can apply them to present day life. These principles are not easy to follow; but they are the essence of what it takes to make a better world.
About the Author
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.
Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.
Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.
My themes I always write about:
Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes- only love can save them.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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