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“What’s your book about?” I am asked often. In the beginning, I’d say something like this: “It’s about a girl who grew up in foster care, has turned 18, and is trying to make it on her own, despite the struggles blah blah blah…” It didn’t really matter what followed because all people heard was “grew up in foster care” and they got a queasy look, as if I were telling a story about stepping in vomit. So, I developed a different shtick. I had worked hard developing a title and a book cover that would attract curiosity and interest. Instead of answering like a social worker, I had to think like a potential reader.
Back in my day, there were plenty of coming-of-age books for boys, but not for girls. Have Mercy fills the void. But I can’t say that without expecting eyes to glaze over.
Part of my motivation in writing about Mercy was to educate young adults, and older ones, about the challenges facing foster kids. Each child’s story is different, of course – as different as Mercy and her sister Lily. But there are common themes and experiences that shape the way most foster kids fit in with their classmates, families, and communities. Some of them are things you’d never think of unless you’d been in their shoes.
It is also my wish that Have Mercy be a source of hope to any reader who might be a foster kid, now or in the past. Along with an exciting, fast-paced storyline, there are themes familiar to all of us. Mercy faces difficult choices and must learn to rely on outsiders. Her mother left her with a bitter distrust of authority. Then, there’s Lily. The sisters see the world through two very distinct lenses. Decisions are made and consequences follow. There’s plenty of real-life drama.
Have Mercy puts a real face on foster care for those who are curious or those who find it distasteful. Mostly, it is a story about trust, determination, and resilience. It’s a story about hope and about love. I guess that’s what I need to tell people.