It’s officially out! Between Worlds 4: What Friends Do can be ordered starting today. In this instalment to my young adult series, Elisabeth and Juliana are forced to make difficult decisions that come with strong, social ramifications. But events like these are one of the hallmarks of growing up, aren’t they?
Learning Context as We Become Young Adults
When we’re children, life is black and white—we want something or we don’t—because the context for our desires includes only us, not other people. Learning to expand our awareness past ourselves takes time, and I believe the most tumultuous time, where “me versus them” happens almost daily, is in our teen years. Juliana and Elisabeth are pushed harshly into that journey in this book.
When Life Is No Longer Black and White
The impetus for Juliana’s story in What Friends Do comes from a time during my dance years when two close friends lost their moms to lung cancer. I don’t have many memories from those tragedies—they happened almost 30 years ago (they were a couple of years apart)—but I remember how I felt. I was a young adult then, too, and I believe I was beginning to undergo the same transformation Juliana and Elisabeth are, because I was suddenly faced with the question, “What do I do?”
- My friends and their family are crying–What do I do?
- When we return to dance class and things obviously aren’t normal anymore–What do I do?
- When I think I see one of the moms walking in the mall, but I know it’s not her, do I tell my friend? Or not?–What do I do?
Western Culture: Trying to Make Things Normal and Happy. Always.
When someone you care deeply about experiences loss, you have an immediate urge to make them feel better. I suspect this is more a by-product of Western culture—we often avoid unhappiness at all costs—than it is a human need. (I think comforting is a human need, but comforting and creating happiness are two different things.)
When my two friends lost their moms, I didn’t like the feeling of not knowing what to do. We don’t live in a culture where teens lose moms on a regular basis, so we don’t have an immediate process at the ready that will click in and help us smoothly through it. There is no “When Your Friend Loses a Parent” certification course at the local YMCA. You can learn how to save someone’s life, but not how to help them live through feeling like crap.
But ultimately, these books aren’t about me, they’re about Juliana and her family. Juliana’s often nervous—she’s in a new environment, surrounded by new people—and her best friend suffers a loss. Not only does Juliana not know what to do, she has to deal with the distance and social media. It’s not easy. Juliana knows what makes her unhappy—most of us do—but this situation is so foreign to her that she has to seek help from many source before figuring it out for herself, if she even can.
Elisabeth’s challenge is different: Her cousin Georg is being tormented by all the violence and death he witnessed as a soldier on the eastern front in World War I. Elisabeth believes he needs help, but she’s not sure if his hallucinations are punishment from God. After all, Georg was the community bully and alpha male before he left for war. Because Elisabeth doesn’t have access to mass media or social media, she’s limited to the information she receives from others in the village, the few books the family has, and the weekly news. So what source of information does she trust? Martin Luther’s writings? Her pastor? Parents? Maria, her best friend? Stefan, Georg’s only friend? Jesus? God?
Juliana and Elisabeth have to decide: do they listen to their parents? Their friends? Or themselves? Between Worlds 4: What Friends Do is available in regular and large print through major book stores across North America and up to 39,000 others around the world. Additionally, you can buy it as an ebook on most major platforms, including Kindle and Kobo. You’ll find a full list on my website.