Her Story: Ladies In Literature with Tracey Neithercott

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-three authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!


About Tracey Neithercott

Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now, she writes YA stories of friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates — you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding Star Wars characters. She’s the author of Gray Wolf Island, a YA novel about the truth, a treasure, and five teens searching for both. Coming fall 2017 from Knopf/Random House.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramTumblrGoodreads

When I was eighteen, I turned eighty. It was noisy getting so old so quickly, and even now I can remember the sounds of that summer: cracking, popping knees; the shhh of my foot as my bad leg dragged; and the steady beat of crutches against the ground.

By twenty-eight, I was at least a century old. Almost overnight, my body wasn’t my own. I’d go to bed with feet on fire and wake up to second-degree burns. On bad days, I’d stand outside, watching the snow turn to water beneath my feet. On good days, I’d sit in front of the fan and pretend I was somewhere not here.

I met Sophie Hatter not long after I was diagnosed with a rare chronic pain condition. It was one of those endless days where time seems to stop for an hour each hour, and I’d spent all of it with flame-red feet that burned furiously. I’d been looking for escape when I picked up Howl’s Moving Castle, and a book about a whiny, vain boy and his magical traveling castle seemed as good a pick as any.

But it wasn’t really about a whiny, vain boy and his magical traveling castle.

I didn’t realize this at first. I was stubbornly suffering, more of a Howl than a Sophie. I’d spent that never-ending day huddled in my room producing so much slime it’d begun to drip down the walls. (I am, of course, speaking metaphorically. Thankfully I don’t have Howl’s magical angst.)

I wasn’t a Sophie, not then. But I wanted to be.

In Sophie I saw me: a girl who’d arrived, so suddenly, at old age. A girl whose body was no longer familiar.

In Sophie, I saw a better me: a me who accepts her body because it’s the only way to move on with her life. A me who begins an adventure despite aches and pain.

At the time, I’d read countless books with strong female characters, those steel-toed girls who save the world and make boys bleed. This was the first time since my diagnosis that I saw such overwhelming strength in something other than physical power.

Despite her limitations, small, frail Sophie is a complete and total badass. She whips a narcissistic, cowardly wizard into shape; tames a fire demon (the analogy with my own life was, believe it or not, lost on me until this very moment); and takes on the feared Witch of the Waste. She’s hilariously snarky, but despite her annoyance with Howl, she does very little complaining about her situation in life.

Sophie grows into herself in her old body, becoming someone stronger than the young girl we met at the start of the story. She carves a life out for herself. I thought about that a lot when I was first diagnosed.

And I thought about writing. Back then, my novel was nothing but a gossamer daydream. But I channeled Sophie and carved out a new place for my old body. I began my own adventures in worlds unknown and unreal. And somehow, in some way, it brought me back to myself.

Title Gray Wolf Island
Author Tracey Neithercott
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Mystery
To Be Published October 10th, 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret — something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure — or merely with their lives.

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