*Published in Prairie Books NOW! Magazine Fall 2015 and includes quotes from the author*
Winnipeg author Jodi Carmichael presents a young adult novel that tackles a heavy topic that millions of women and girls face, abuse. We follow 16-year old Julia, who has recently lost her father to cancer and is having a hard time coping. She is on depression and anxiety medication and the only seemingly good thing in her life is her boyfriend, Jeremy, who seems like an amazing boyfriend at first. Carmichael soon reveals that Jeremy is not as sweet as he seems, and is actually emotionally abusive over Julia – but he masks it with infatuation, promises of love and compliments.
“Emotional abuse begins with stinging words, emotional blackmail, and controlling behaviour dressed up as attention and infatuation.” Forever Julia shows how abuse creeps into relationships, “how ‘smart’ girls like Julia can be drawn in, and ‘villains’ like Jeremy pull it off”, as the reader, you are impatiently waiting for Julia to see Jeremy for what he truly is. Jeremy tells Julia how to dress, how to act, who to be friends with and what she can do, and Julia starts to change her actions to avoid confrontation with the aggressive Jeremy. “Words hurt,” Carmichael states, “they bury deep into you, far beyond a surface bruise. They lodge themselves in your brain and wrap themselves around your self-confidence, squeezing life out of who you believe yourself to be as an individual”. We watch Julia become increasingly insecure, which gives Jeremy more power.
Forever Julia originally took a different form from the Rom/Com or YA Chicklit novel that Carmichael intended to write, “The working title for the novel, for a long time was; Who Needs a Romeo: A Tale of a Modern Juliet… Although it was an entertaining read, that version had zero dramatic action and it fell flat in terms of character growth.” Jodi was accepted into the Manitoba Writers’ Guild, Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program as an apprentice, where she has Carolyn Gray – playwright, puppeteer, and author as a mentor. Gray helped Carmichael turn Forever Julia into the powerful novel that will be released this April.
Carmichael urges everyone that may be facing abuse to seek help, “although it may be hard, you need to ask for help. Talk to a parent or councillor. Councillors are trained to help and they have heard EVERYTHING, so you can’t shock or offend them. You can also call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-688-6868. They offer web counselling and phone counselling. Their service is free and they are non-judgemental, confidential, provide services for those under age 20, and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” She wants victims to remember, “You are not alone. Sadly, millions of women and girls around the world are abused. No one has the right to hurt you in anyway, and definitely not because they love you, Real love supports and nurtures, it does not smother, control or hurt.”