The Edge of Brilliance
by Susan Traugh
Genre: YA Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Release Date: July 19th 2016
Volatile and unstable, Amy stands at the precipice. Will she fall into the chaos and despair of insanity or ascend into brilliance and redemption?
Amy Miles is fifteen and crazy. Or, at least that’s her greatest fear. Her severe bipolar disorder, with its roller coaster manic and depressive episodes, is ruining her life. Yet in Amy’s mind it is accepting the pills and therapy—not the disease—that will brand her as ’crazy’.
When Amy lands in a residential psychiatric program, she befriends take-charge Mallory and the two create family and try to salvage the shards of their broken minds. There, Amy discovers that her illicit drug use has robbed her of her ability to dance and she is forced to weigh how hard she is willing to work to reclaim her lost talent and potential. But, despite a promising beginning, when Amy falls back into denial, the tragic consequences cannot be undone.
Amy is left to decide whether to give up altogether or accept her diagnosis and the tools she needs to battle her disease, to learn to dance again and forge a new and improved version of herself. Will she step up to the edge of her brilliance and shine?
Reader Advisory: This book contains strong language and also includes scenes involving drug use, rape, violence. This book also includes a frank exploration of mental illness and loss of autonomy.
She walked Amy through the beautiful oak doors behind the receptionist. It was only when those doors slammed shut with an echo-y clang and automatically locked behind her that the chill of realization gripped Amy’s spine and made her jump. Oak veneers hid the fact that those doors were solid steel inside with locks that snapped shut via a remote button at the warden’s desk. And despite the thick taupe carpeting and rich wood veneers everywhere, the clank of that lock bounced off the walls and echoed around the room like a sonic boom. This was prison. Prison. Dress it up all you like, the sound of that lock was final.
Tears leaped up to the backs of Amy’s eyes, but she gritted her teeth and breathed out slowly in response. She was not about to cry because a stupid door slammed. Never.
The blonde woman guided Amy into a small room to the left of the doors. Another, taller, older woman with gray hair that looked like curly steel wool was already seated on a stool in the room.
“Stand up, feet apart. Face me,” said the older woman in a quick, no-nonsense manner. “Lift your arms out straight and stay that way until I tell you to move.”
Amy had to concentrate as hard as she could to make her arms obey.
The younger woman patted Amy down, running her hands through Amy’s hair before moving to shoulders, arms, chest, waist, hips, thighs, legs and feet. As first one place then another on her body was touched, Amy closed her eyes. She needed to block her vision, not speak and stay still. Too much information was pounding into her brain.
“Take off your shoes,” the older woman instructed in that same quiet, authoritative tone. Amy complied.
“Unhook your bra.”
Amy tried to follow the instructions, but her hands shook too violently to manage the hooks. She tried again, but again failed.
“May I?” The younger woman’s eyes offered a softness as her hands hovered close to Amy, awaiting permission.
Amy could not speak, but offered the slightest nod before the young woman unhooked her bra then gently held Amy’s wrists and brought Amy’s hands up to her chest. “Here,” she instructed. “Cover your breasts like this while I take your bra.”
“Now turn your back to me and hold your hands out straight.” Amy didn’t know if she could remain standing much longer—dark flashes were beginning to dance before her eyes and the women’s voices seemed to be backing down a long tunnel.
“Amy? Are you listening?” The voice that broke through was not unkind but seemed to be coming from very far away. “With your back still to me, drop your panties to your ankles and squat down,” commanded the older woman.
The younger woman stepped up again. She remained behind Amy but touched her shoulder. “Drop your panties, honey,” she guided. Then, as Amy complied, she gently but firmly pushed Amy down to the floor.
Amy’s mind circled back to the hundreds of pliés she’d done in dance. Her muscle memory responded with a graceful grand plié until the older woman’s voice jerked her from her dream. “Cough three times.”
“What?” Amy’s daze was so deep that the words were no more comprehensible than if they’d been in Swahili.
“Stay in that position and cough three times.”
There, squatted, her hands covering her breasts, her panties down around her ankles, Amy searched her brain for what the woman wanted from her, what was being asked of her. She desperately wanted to comply with whatever request these people were making, but the meaning was garbled and bouncing around her brain with no place to land.
“Amy, look at me. You need to cough. Like this...” The younger woman was still behind Amy with one hand on her shoulder, but her gentle touch guiding Amy’s chin up to her and sharp coughing sound helped Amy connect the dots and provide the physical response that was being requested.
“Pull your panties up and put these on. You can step behind that curtain.” The younger woman handed Amy a pair of blue scrubs and pointed to a rough green curtain hanging from a rod in the corner of the room. Once dressed, she handed Amy a cup. “There’s the bathroom. Go pee for me and bring it back out here. Oh, and leave the bathroom door ajar, please.”
Amy had to hold the doorjamb to steady herself as she walked into the bathroom. The older woman had left, but the young woman was waiting outside the door when Amy emerged.
“Let me walk you to your room, Amy.”
Amy—is fifteen and crazy. Or, at least, that’s her greatest fear. Her severe bipolar disorder, with its roller-coaster manic and depressive episodes, is ruining her life. Yet, in Amy’s mind it’s accepting the pills and therapy—not the disorder—that will brand her as ‘crazy.’ Once a gifted dancer and choreographer, Amy had it going on in high school, but now things are falling apart. Parents won’t let their kids hang with her, her grades are in free-fall and the siren song of drugs is begging her to throw herself onto the rocks. When it all comes crashing down, Amy finds herself in a residential psychiatric facility and is forced to start picking up the pieces of her broken life.
Mallory—becomes Amy’s best friend in Green Acres. Funny, bossy and in-your-face, Mallory knows Amy’s heart and as she helps Amy adjust to life in a residential facility, their closeness grows. And yet, there’s a part of Mallory that remains cut off and secret. What is she withholding from Amy? Sadly, by the time Amy figures it out, it may be too late.
Mia and Emily—are the last two members of this quartet. Housed in the same dorm room as Amy and Mallory, Mia and Emily round out the group and form ‘family.’ Mia, a tiny, eternally sad beauty plays directly opposite to Emily’s bouncy, bubbly little Aspie. But, looks can be both deceiving and revealing as each of the girls eventually expose the aching pain hidden deep inside them.
Kelly—no fantasy zombie here—Kelly is what real-life nightmares are made from. Sociopathic and extraordinarily dangerous, Kelly stalks everyone at Green Acres but has a particular penchant for Mia. Unused to such cruelty and hatred, Amy recoils at the mere presence of Kelly, but, will she step into her bravery and stop Kelly when given the chance?
Ms. Prudy—Beautiful, smart with a take-no-prisoners attitude, Ms. Prudy is Amy’s therapist at Green Acres. She’s loving and supportive as Amy struggles with her new placement, but firmly pushes Amy to ‘pull up her big girl panties’ and step in to life. The question is: will Amy heed her advice or fall back into old patterns?
Mr. Adams—Wise teacher, loyal cheerleader, Mr. Adams leads the Chemical Dependency class at Green Acres. As Amy steps up to his expectations and tries to reach for his dream for her, the question remains—can she step up to the edge of her brilliance and shine?
About the Author
Award-winning author, Susan Traugh, has been writing for over thirty years. Her Daily Living Skills workbooks are used in classrooms all over the world and her stories have appeared in periodicals nationwide along with several stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul. With husband, Steven, Susan won Learning Magazine's Teachers Choice Award for Mother Goose Brain Boost.
Now, Susan is venturing into the world of young adult fiction. Her latest novel, The Edge of Brilliance is an exploration into the heroes found within struggling young people. The manuscript was a finalist in the San Diego Book Awards. Today, Susan lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and daughters, a cat, dog, fish and near her grown son who doesn't visit enough.