I recently answered questions for a book review blogger and was struck by the last one. To paraphrase: Is there anything you want to say to your readers?
Yes. More than you can imagine.
But I knew I needed to be succinct, and I gave a response that I believe is both pithy and intelligent. We’ll see when the post runs. However, since I have plenty of space here, I thought I might answer with a bit more breathing room.
To the parents/guardians/aunts/uncles/teachers/librarians/inquisitive adults:
You will see the cover of Tap Out and will be intrigued. It will draw you in and you will want to know about the boy on the cover. Then you’ll read the first line. And if you don’t put it down (please don’t put it down), you may just read straight through the first chapter. And then you’ll have a choice. Are you willing to go down this hole with Tony, to see where and how he comes out? To let the child you’re purchasing for do the same? Because the only way is through, and Tony goes to Hell and back.
Are you willing to go there, to allow yourself, or your child, to enter a world that is not apologetic, does not hold anyone’s hand, and may just leave you looking at life a bit differently?
I hope you are. Because the violence and the vulgarity is not a veneer. It is not a macho screen without roots. It is a direct manifestation of suffering and a lack of acceptance that such suffering is okay. The road of Tap Out is not an easy one to walk. But ask yourself: Aren’t the best stories a little dangerous?
To the teens:
This is for you. This is not my story or any one person’s story. It is Tony’s and he is a compilation of my decade of working with teens and listening to them and appreciating lives that are so often dismissed. Read and learn.
This story is about MMA and poverty and meth, but it is more about choices than anything else. In this world, the greatest power we have is choice. Unfortunately, the options are not always the ones we’d select for ourselves. That doesn’t matter. We still must choose. Allowing someone else to do so for you is no different than making the decision yourself. That is a bitter pill to swallow, but let Tony show you how it’s done.
And when you finish Tap Out, pass it along. Give it to someone who you know is having a rough go of it, or to someone who could use a little perspective, or to someone who you know will relate more than you ever will. The power is in the story, not the words or the action, but the impact. What have you learned about standing up for yourself and about how the world can work? Your answer is vital.
I love this story. I love these characters. Not because I love violence and vulgarity, but because I embrace flaws and complicated existence. I don’t know a single person who isn’t more or less than what he or she appears to be. We are a muddled mess, and that view, to me, is the most intriguing. Enjoy.