Monday, March 7, 2016

Author guest post & giveaway: Misfits and Freaks by Joanne Macgregor (Giveaway now closed)

Hiya lovelies

Today I’d like to welcome SA YA author, Joanne Macgregor to my blog today. 

I’m pretty excited for today’s post because Joanne not only touches on a subject that is close to my heart and one that is relatable on every level, but Jo’s also generously made up a swag package filled with all sorts of goodies (including a signed copy of Scarred, her latest contemporary YA novel) and is offering one lucky reader the chance to win the entire hamper.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent the majority of my teenaged years feeling like I don’t belong.  To me I was the ugly, fat and mostly friendless girl who was socially awkward and generally inept at anything relating to the development of any life skills whatsoever.

And, truth be told, adulthood hasn’t changed my perception about myself much. I know. I know. We’re so ridiculously cruel to ourselves, aren’t we?

Which is why I’m so glad for the post that Jo’s written today.

Her book, Scarred features a protagonist who is emotionally traumatised after an accident leaves her disfigured, and in today’s post Joanne talks about how many of us feel defined by the crippling voices inside of our heads.

Before I hand over to Jo, here’s some more info about the book, followed by her guest post and giveaway details.  

About the book (Add it to your TBR pile here):
Sloane Munster had the perfect life, until she didn’t. Now seventeen year-old Sloane is trying to reboot her life after a serious accident left her badly scarred and emotionally traumatized.

Starting her senior year at a different school, she recognizes Luke Naughton, a swimmer whom she once had a crush on, in her new class. But when she smiles at him, he glares back with revulsion and she’s sure he’s disgusted by her ugly scar.

No matter how hard she tries to keep out of his way, life keeps bringing them together and despite misunderstandings and guilty secrets, the chemistry between them sparks.

Meanwhile, tensions are mounting at their school where bullying is rife and Sloane is not the most deeply scarred person.

Sharp with bittersweet humor, Scarred is an intense, beautiful, compelling story of life, death, damage, and fighting for love against all the odds.

Over to Joanne: Misfits and Freaks

Hey Tammy and YA-lovers, thanks for giving me some airtime on your blog!

I’ve just finished writing the first draft of my latest manuscript – a standalone YA romance about a girl with a standout physical feature that makes her feel abnormal, ugly and freakish.

When it came to writing the last chapter, I wanted several examples of the different things that could make teens feel odd, so I thought I’d crowdsource it.

I posted this question on Facebook: What about yourself, when you were a self-conscious teen, made you feel like a freak?

I was astounded by the response.

Everybody – everybody! – felt weird because of something.

Some felt like misfits because of physical features – they felt too tall (or too short); too plump or too skinny; or had curly hair, or red hair and freckles, bad skin or physical anomalies; had to wear braces or spectacles; or developed (boobs and periods) too early or too late, or had boobs that were too big or not big enough.

Others felt set apart by their behaviour not matching the norm (coming later to dating and kissing, for example, or preferring reading to sports or clubbing) or having odd parents (poor or eccentric or with mental health problems or just plain embarrassing).

Many felt that they just couldn’t get it “right” – they wore the “wrong” fashions, or lived in poor areas, or listened to music that wasn’t cool, or their identity didn’t match the usual way of being for their gender (tomboy girls, sensitive boys).

Each commenter felt like everybody else had been staring at their oddity, even though some of these were so obscure and minor as to be nearly invisible.

One woman confessed that she had been obsessed by not having the usual sort of indentation at the knee crease when she sat cross legged – she had a bulge instead of a hollow and thought it just looked “wrong!”

It seems like anything (good or bad) that made you seem (or even just feel, to yourself) different, made you feel like a freak and a misfit. Anything that made you stand out set you up as a target for bullies reacting against their own inadequacies and inferiorities.

It’s almost as if the end goal of adolescence was to become a boring, mediocre average that matched some imagined and elusive statistical norm so that you would blend entirely into the background and disappear.

As if average was a camouflage that would protect you from being singled out and targeted.
Maybe it would have. But it would also have robbed us of the things that make us distinctive, irreplaceable and exceptional, the things that make us uniquely ourselves.

All the comments, bar one, were from women. Is that because societal standards of “acceptable” and “beautiful” are tougher for us, or because boys turned their anger outwards in aggression rather than inwards in self-critique, or just because men find it less comfortable to share their feelings and experiences publically?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The bottom-line is, the secret conviction that you were abnormal or ugly or weird in some way, seems to be a near-universal experience. Certainly it was more common than each of us, so obsessed with trying to hide our skew teeth or fat bums, ever believed.

While you were agonizing about your knock-knees, the girl sitting standing in front of you at school assembly was worrying whether you were judging her calves for being too big.

I think nobody felt fully comfortable in their skin. Nobody really felt confident, some just faked it better than others. We all felt like freaks and misfits at that time of our lives, and for many the feeling never quite went away.

For most, the memories of being teased and taunted and bullied don’t fade – you never truly leave high school.

As I read comment after comment, a massive sense of regret filled me. All that angsting and obsessing, all that time and energy spent comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves wanting, inferior, defective – what a sad waste of time and youth.

When I look back at how beautiful we were back then, I wonder how we never realised it at the time, how we never understood that what makes us beautiful has much less to do with how we looked, and much more to do with who we were.

There’s a part in my book, Scarred (also a YA contemporary romance) where the facially scarred heroine’s therapist tells her to “take back your eyes!”

“You’ve stopped seeing,” she said. “You’ve stopped looking at anything or anyone else. It’s like your eyes have rolled back inwards and all you can see is yourself and that scar. You’ve reduced yourself to a three inch red line!”

“It’s actually closer to four inches.”

Shrinks aren’t supposed to let their emotions show, but I guess she was pretty frustrated with me by then, because her ears went red and she banged the palm of her hand on the arm of her chair.

“It’s ridiculous! Take back your eyes and look around you at the world. Look at a sunset, watch ants walking in a line on the sidewalk, look at other people – and not just to see how they notice and react to your face!”

“Okay, okay! I’ll try.”

“Either do or do not – there is no try!” she said in a Yoda voice which made me smile – a real smile, not my scar-smirk – but it disappeared with her next words.

“This week, I’m giving you homework.”

“You get homework in therapy?” Figures.

“You do. Take some of that money you feel so guilty about having, and buy a nice new digital camera.”

“My homework is to buy a camera?”

“Your homework is to take pictures. I’m hoping,” she said “hoping”, but from her expression it looked more like she was begging and pleading, perhaps even praying, “that it will force you to look outside of yourself. To look at other people, other things, and to stop focusing so obsessively on your own face. You’re more focused on your appearance than a beauty queen – it’s a kind of reverse vanity!”


 Sloane, the main character in the book, feels ugly and abnormal, and part of her growth as a character is to learn to accept herself, scars and all. I’ve collected a couple of goodies around that theme for the swag bag giveaway and I hope the winner takes them to heart.

Last word: When I look back to who I was at sixteen, I have one more regret: I wish I’d worn a bikini!

Huge thanks for stopping by today Joanne!

And now time for a giveaway!

The lovely Joanne has compiled the following hamper for one lucky reader:
1. Signed print copy of the book,

2. Tissues (for when you cry in the sad parts)

3. A soothing therapy gel eye-mask (to reduce eye puffiness after crying at the sad parts)

4. A nail file (for when you bite your nails in the tense parts)

5. Revlon scarlet nail polish and heart-shaped mirror compact (for beauty repairs)

6. An inspirational magnet (to remind you how beautiful you are, and how you should just be you)

7. A Mani (The Lucky Cat) "courage" charm (to remind you to be brave, because it takes courage to be different)

Want a chance to win? All you need to do is leave a comment and tell me which novel helped you coped through some of the worst times in your life.

Giveaway is open until Monday, 21 MarchOpen to SA readers only (but don’t fear, an international comp is on the way soon).

UPDATE: Congratulations to Shanice Singh, who has won the swag bag, which includes all of the above-mentioned items. Shanice, please contact me as per instructions in the comment section below.

For more information about Joanne, check out her Goodreads profile and follow her on Twitter.

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