East Montpelier author Laura Williams McCaffrey's third novel, Marked, asks the question: "How would you survive in a society so tightly controlled that only the brightest and most favored students succeed?" Protagonist Lyla Northstrom must navigate this quandary when she's busted for buying medicine for her sick mother at an underground market. As punishment, her arm is tattooed with an incriminating blue line. She's offered the chance to erase that mark and redeem herself, but only by double-crossing the people she loves. In between chapters, a graphic novel — called "the zine" — unfolds to create a story within the story.
McCaffrey says the dystopian novel started as an attempt to retell the Norwegian fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon," but the plot led in a different direction. Still central to the story is the fairy tale-esque notion of coming to love "people you originally see as monstrous." Lyla's childhood companion, a young man with a scarred face, is an important figure in her quest to erase her wrongdoings.
In addition to writing books for middle schoolers and young adults, McCaffrey is a teacher at Montpelier's Pacem School, and Pine Manor College's MFA in Writing program. Her advice to aspiring authors? "Just sit down and keep writing."
Craftsbury Common, VT
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