It’s not often the view through a single window offers so many vistas at once. However, that’s what author Colleen D. Scott has given readers in her debut effort.
The Mobile native spent most of her adulthood balancing the corporate world with parenthood but her recent retirement prompted a return to an old love: literature. The product is her novel “Everybody Needs a Bridge,” a coming-of-age story aimed at the Young Adult (YA) market that hit racks Feb. 20.
Through its story, readers are afforded a look across time, place and even into themselves by following its protagonist Erin as she navigates the cultural pitfalls of late adolescence and early adulthood before finding her personal magnetic north.
Though Erin’s hometown is never named, it will ring familiar for Mobilians. Everything from places to Mardi Gras to the civic hostesses named for flowers pegs it as a place we know.
Opening in the early 1980s, Erin is moving from a private religious school to the largest and most hallowed public high school in her area. Pitfalls abound and Erin’s inner dialogue elicits paradoxical response.
On one hand, this reader completely related to her quandaries, the eggshells the teen walked on, every move heavy with her fear of judgment and mistakes.
It was also amusing from the vantage point of adulthood, where you’re afforded the luxury of a wider perspective and seeing teen angst for its overwrought reality. It stirred this reader’s sympathies across a geographical and gender gap, striking common ground in all our stories.
Erin finds a few friends among the emotional minefield, with none more important than Brittany. Through her new pal, she passes all the gateways of adolescence. There’s even a little rebellion in there, nothing too terribly scandalous even if illegal.
Most of what Erin learns through those years is confidence to follow her heart and head in equal measure. She musters courage and builds confidence as athletic and academic successes follow.
It’s also during high school she meets Emmett, a standout football player whose studiousness and personal magnetism make him an instant hit on campus. Erin is drawn to him, yet frightened by her realizations.
Emmett is African-American while Erin is white. Though both are high achievers, the norms of their place and time make romance a perilous proposition.
Concurrently, Brittany drifts into dangerous places of her own. Her slow-motion disintegration vexes Erin, whose protective instincts hit a wall.
The central character’s arc shifts as she and Emmett head to the state university. Familiar obstacles arise but are met with more aplomb. Eventually those years bring the most crucial decisions of Erin’s life, things that forever reshape the world of everyone around her in unforeseen ways.
Scott’s roman á clef is well written. Perfectly for its market, it is straightforward and not too “writerly.” It bears the subtle marks of keen observation — such as a bit about children quietly talking in the dark or girls dancing along “to the ghost of” music vanished — but never gets lost in an affair with its own voice.
The characters are well drawn without being pedantic. The emotional exchanges are tangible.
As said initially, it provides readers a look into a time past but maybe not as distant as we wish. In service to full disclosure, I know many of the people in the tale and recall some of its events. Scott gilded nothing.
It also affords a hopeful look into the future through extrapolation. If past barriers can seem quaint with 30 years’ passage, then what current difficulties might be overcome with more time?
Scott also supplies insight into ourselves through witness of Erin’s thoughts and tribulations. Not only can readers relate to this young woman but they will also ponder others instrumental in their own journeys.
“I realized I couldn’t really tell my story without highlighting the important people along the way that gave me courage. So it was important to me to show what an impact friendship can have when you’re trying to live a courageous, ordinary life,” Scott said.
Scott aims to release her second novel in late spring or early summer 2018. Its setting is derived from the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay and revolves around social views on mental health.
“The heroine is in that role simply because she seeks professional help for mental health issues. That is so much why people don’t reach out and ask for help, or help when they see something going on, why people resist help when it’s offered is because of the stigma,” Scott said.