by Brady Stefani
Genre: YA Psychological Thriller/Scifi
Release Date: June 7th 2016
“As the father of two teenage girls, I can tell you that Brady Stefani must have some sort of supernatural helmet that helps him think and write in their language. But The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is much more than a novel for teens. This fast-paced adventure kept my attention, blazing back-and-forth from reality to an alter-world so close by that it’s creepy. Here’s a page-turner that captures a lot about childhood struggles through an imaginative story filled with surprises.”
-Jim Schaefer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer for the Detroit Free Press
“Stefani’s The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is a thought-provoking and emotional journey through a young girl’s mind as she struggles to understand who she is, where she came from, and who she is supposed to be—all while deciphering between reality and the tricks our minds can sometimes play on us. Stefani beautifully demonstrates how difficult life can be for anyone who thinks or acts a little differently, and reminds us that, more often than not, the things that terrify us the most are the things trying to save us.”
-Jessica Stevens, author of Within Reach
Thank you so much to author Brady G. Stefani for today’s guest post!
When I started thinking about the book, I definitely knew that I wanted to deal with “mental illness” for lack of a better term. Specifically, I wanted to explore suppressed, traumatic memories and the severe anxiety and mental torment they can cause if they are left buried. We can’t keep uncomfortable memories buried forever. Memories are linked to emotions, and sooner or later something will trigger an old frightening emotion, and unfortunately, it’s difficult for our minds to distinguish feelings tied to old experiences, from feeling related to the present. So when an old memory triggers a frightening childhood feeling, our mind treats the feeling as current, and our body throws the fight or flight emergency switch, and all heck breaks loose in the form of anxiety and panic.
Courtney, of course, was traumatized as a child. And up until the beginning of the story, she may have been able to keep those memories, and the emotions tied to them, buried in the vault. But when the story opens, those memories are now clawing their way out, and the more she tries to push them back down, the more anxious she becomes. It is not until Courtney meets Agatha, whom she can trust, that she allows herself to revisit her painful memories and begins to make peace them, and ultimately separate the imaginary from reality. I’m not suggesting we all have to dig up every painful memory. I’m just suggesting to the reader that more you shove painful thoughts and feelings back down, the more they will come out as anxiety or depression or illness.
A second message, or idea anyway, that I really wanted to expose the reader to was the idea that everyone has a little craziness in them, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I had problems as a child, and I became afraid of my own mind, and I hid my fears and pretended to be normal. But that only harmed me. If I had talked with someone and shared my fears, I probably would have learned that I wasn’t so different after all. And things would have eventually settled. The more you talk about your feeling, the more comfortable you become with them, and the better you understand yourself.
Courtney, unfortunately, didn’t have any emotional support at home. She was left to feel different, and taught to be ashamed of her strange thoughts, her imaginary friend, and her alien visitors. She suffered the stigma of mental illness. And in her case… well I won’t spoil anything, but who’s to say what’s real and what’s not. The human brain is the most complex mechanism in the known universe. The mind’s ability to perceive and imagine are boundless. And you’re going to tell me what’s real? Good luck.
Final message or idea: find yourself, treat yourself kindly, and learn to be comfortable and confident in who you are.
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