Title: OUTSIDE IN
Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 52,000 words
Super-brain Alexis likes everything exactly so. Perfect prep school grades. School supplies arranged eight inches apart at exact angles. Timed phone calls with her mother. Scheduled hook-ups with her boyfriend Ben. As long as her ongoing self-harm streak is hidden, all is well.
When Alexis receives a B on an essay and then endures an excruciating break-up, her once orderly life spirals into chaos. Now she cuts precise parallel lines on her leg, one inch apart, one for each day since Ben broke up with her. She bangs her head, burns herself—anything to self-soothe and reassert some control over her life.
After her friend accidentally sees her scars, Alexis is trapped into weekly therapy sessions with a counselor, forced disclosure to her parents, and worst of all, dismissal from school if she can’t stop hurting herself. It’s up to Alexis to pull herself out of her hell—that is, if she even wants to.
As an educator and a teacher consultant for the National Writing Project, I know how much the stories of others can speak to teenagers trying to make sense of their own lives. Although there have been other novels about cutting (for example, Patricia McCormick’s Cut and Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars), OUTSIDE IN examines the correlation between perfectionism and self-harm, a survival mechanism for intense pressure.
I am a member of SCBWI and belong to several critique groups. I am also working on two other YA projects.
A bright red B. Oh my God. My lowest grade ever.
I dug my fingernails into my arm and risked a glance at the comments on my paper. All bad. I couldn’t read any more—plenty of time to memorize the rest later. I stuffed the paper into my binder before anyone could see it.
My throat closed up and I couldn’t draw a full breath. My G.P.A. would sink. Miranda would pass me in class rank. One single B could ruin everything at our school.
What would my mother say? She’d never forgive me when she saw that B.
“I’ll be right back,” I said, and walked-ran out of the classroom.
Made it into the hallway, close to the bathroom. Such a fool. I clenched my teeth. I should have spent more time on the paper until it was flawless.
I made it to the safety of a marbled stall.
Why didn’t I work harder? I didn’t deserve an A anyway. Dummy, lazy, fat moron.
I jerked up my left sleeve. I uncurled a paper clip, molding the metal into a straight line. I scraped the clip back and forth across my fat upper arm until beads of blood popped up.
So stupid, so stupid….
It wasn’t enough. I took a deep breath. I scraped four more times, changing the line into an angular B. Exactly what I deserved.
I pulled my shirt sleeve back down as far as it would go, clutched it with my fist, and went to my next class.