In Sparrow, debut author Mary Cecilia Jackson writes about a ballerina who finds the courage to confront the abuse that haunts her past and threatens her future. Read more from Mary about how she came to write this devastating but hopeful YA novel.
When I began Sparrow, I was struggling with the first draft of another novel. While I was trying to convince myself to admit defeat, a terrible news story went viral. A high-school girl had gotten drunk at a party and passed out. While she was unconscious, a group of boys took naked pictures of her and posted them on Facebook. I was so horrified by the cruelty of those boys that I felt sick for days. Just before sunrise one morning, I put the other book aside and wrote the first line of the first draft of Sparrow: “I am not the kind of girl who tells.”
Sparrow is the story of Savannah Darcy Rose, a brilliant ballerina who suffers physical and emotional violence at the hands of her boyfriend. Schooled in silent suffering by her long-dead mother, she believes that if she loves him enough, if she’s the perfect girlfriend, if she never tells a soul, he’ll stop. But when his jealousy and rage escalate into a brutal attack one night, Sparrow wakes in the hospital to the knowledge that she may never dance again. In order to heal her body and her soul, she must confront the abuse that haunts her past.
As the mother of three sons, I’m also passionate about creating vulnerable, loving, and brave male characters. And so I wrote Lucas, a boy who is deeply shaken by what happens to the girl he’s secretly loved for years. A boy who recognizes his inability to fix everything that’s broken. A boy who is willing to set his own wishes aside to become a strong ally for Sparrow, standing with her and honoring her courage as she works to navigate her path to healing.
In the end, Sparrow is not a book about violence, but about finding something worth living for, becoming someone new, and learning to follow the still, small voice of hope.
I’m incredibly excited to share Sparrow with you. I hope you enjoy it.