Here's the rundown:
After coming to the aide of Taylor Monroe, a popular member of the "Stilettos" at school, and a series of misunderstandings with her friends, Hannah is forced to re-invent herself. She quickly gets caught up in a life much different than the one she knows, where status, glamour, makeup, appearance and acceptance become her masters. And what of the dark secret that haunts the streets of Wichita Falls?
Can Hannah survive the lies, deceit, jealousy, and rage that are now waiting for her around every corner? Will she succumb to the pressures of popularity? Or will she be crushed under the heels of the "Stilettos"?
~High school is hard enough just being yourself, let alone trying to be someone you're not~
A: I was just about to leave the house one morning when I caught a segment on morning television about a group of teen girls at a Texas high school who had organized a group called, “Redefining Beautiful.” They were trying to encourage fellow female students to go one day a week without makeup. They were stressing that you don’t need makeup to be beautiful. I was so amazed by their bravery and confidence to go against type, especially in high school and at an age where girls feel the most awkward with themselves. A close friend of mine who is a film producer had been asking me if I had anything I was working on I could share with him. By time the segment was over, I had the basic plot in my head and before I left the house, I already knew the ending of the story. I phoned my producer friend and told him I had something, we met that afternoon and I pitched the idea to him as a film. He loved the concept and told me he was interested. Could I write the screenplay? I went to work right away. But about 50 pages in, I found these characters were so lifelike, I felt it needed to be a book, it could always be a film later. I called my friend back, said, I have to write this as a novel. With his blessing and two years later, Forever ME was published.
2. Q: How are teen girls responding to a book written by male?
A: I was concerned about that. Would they relate to it? Would it seem real to them? Or would it come across as a guy giving his version of what he think teen girls are like today? Well, to my pleasant surprise, teen girls are sending me emails, tweets, and telling me, they completely relate to the situations, they’ve said, “OMG, that is so me!” “I’m just like Hannah!” Or they know girls like Shelby and the Stilettos. Or jerk guys who treat them like property. I got plenty of praise from some parents even grandparents on Forever ME, but the real vindication comes from the teens who love it. I couldn’t ask for better than that! (Plus I have a 19 year old daughter, so I wasn’t totally in the dark.) But I did do my research.
3. Q: What did you learn about teen girls that you didn’t know?
A: A lot! I learned that some girls lose precious hours of sleep by getting up at sometimes between 3 and 4 a.m. to begin their daily regiment of getting ready for school to make themselves look “normal” or what they feel they must look like to their friends and fellow students. Girls are under tremendous pressure to always look a certain way, weigh a certain amount. Often it is self-imposed, even the prettiest girls feel insecure about their looks. Girls who are bullied often feel completely alone with no one to turn to. Even if schools have zero tolerance for bullying, there’s always an unspoken rule to not tell. Being bullied is embarrassing, especially when girls get publicly humiliated in school and other students stand by, watching or laughing. School can more often than not, feel like prison instead of an educational institution.
4. Q: Speaking of Bullying, there’s quite a lot of it in Forever ME. Were you attempting to send a message?
A: Actually no I wasn’t. Not consciously anyway. My wife pointed out to me that bullying wasn’t just limited to the students. Friends bullied each other and even parents bullied their teens. It made me realize there are many different ways for kids to be bullied like there are as many forms of abuse. It’s not always physical, but it is always damaging.
5. Q: I see in several past reviews Forever ME gets compared to the film, “Mean Girls.” Did that have any influence on your writing?
A: Not at all, I have not seen the film. So I’m always surprised when someone compares it to that film. I imagine since the subject matters are similar I can see how someone could draw that conclusion. It was important to me in the beginning that my main character, Hannah was not the new girl at a school. That’s always tough on a teen to be the new kid. I wanted her to have her own friends, a well-adjusted home life and content with her life as it was. It was only when she crossed the invisible line of mixing with the social elite did it present a problem in her life. Wichita Falls is a place where a girl from her side of town is often reminded it’s best if she stays there.
About the author
Thomas Amo is the author over 20 comedies and farces for the live theatre. This former full time theatrical producer has spent the last thirty years writing in many different genres, from pilot scripts for television to screenplays on independent films. Outside acting, directing and producing, his first love has always been writing. Forever ME marks his debut into YA fiction
Excerpt from FOREVER ME
Wichita Falls High was your typical Texas educational institution. It boasted a fine athletics’ department with a focus on football. The student body was composed of about fifteen hundred students, the majority being mostly Caucasians and Hispanics. While the African American and Asian students were smaller in numbers, they all mixed well with one another. Like most high schools, you could find plenty of, emo, goths, stoners, jocks and cheerleaders. The only segregation that seemed prevalent at Wichita High was the one between the Clubbers and the Easties. Clubbers were the young adults whose families belonged to the country club. These were the students who went out of their way to not interact with the teens who were from, that part of town. Hannah and Lauren were Easties. If you lived east of Chester Street, then you were socially unimportant. To translate into pop culture terms, Easties were Mudbloods.
There was one other group at Wichita Falls High that commanded its own title, and it belonged to a small band of girls known as the Stilettos. They were Shelby Farrell, Courtney James, Vanessa Chezwick, Madison Winthrop and Taylor Monroe. They were Clubbers of the highest order. Their fathers had the most money, and they lived in the exclusive section of the country club, with the exception of Taylor. Taylor’s family lived just outside the club. Her inclusion in the Stilettos came in the form of a proxy, as her father was Shelby’s father’s best friend.
Taylor was easily one of the most attractive girls at Wichita Falls High. She had striking, golden honey colored eyes, set within an oval shaped face. Her dark eyebrows accentuated her luxurious long blonde hair. She was the most petite member of the Stilettos, standing only at five-foot-three. Shelby was the accepted leader of the clique; her tall five foot ten height alone made her appear like the one in charge. She had long brunette hair, porcelain skin, and emerald green eyes that seemed to peer directly through you. Like the rest of her clique, she too was sixteen. They all drove, but to be a friend with Shelby, it was a requirement to ride in her Mercedes. The way her tall legs carried her, she walked as if she owned the school. Her second in command was Courtney, a medium height and slight build of a redhead. She was freckled and pale and her disposition was always dour and disagreeable. She loved taunting other students, especially girls she considered ugly or fat. The two remaining members of the Stilettos were Vanessa and Madison. Vanessa was a stunning Japanese/Italian girl with rich, naturally wavy, black hair and almond shaped, chestnut eyes. Her olive toned skin appeared flawless and her heart shaped face was beautiful when she smiled. That, however, only happened when she was bullying younger students. She was just slightly shorter than Shelby, which was in her favor. Madison took care to be certain she never wore heels that made her taller than Shelby. Otherwise, it would be considered an act of defiance. Madison had been into Cosplay during her middle school years. Being a slightly overweight child, her involvement in costume play had been a means to find acceptance among others. She loved the idea of dressing up as a character from a film or television show. She mostly wore Catholic schoolgirl uniforms that were reminiscent of popular 90’s Japanese anime. By time she became a Stiletto, everyone was so used to it, it would have been odd for her to wear anything else. She too was pretty with brunette hair and blonde streaks. She wore glasses but Shelby forced her to go to contacts that year. She was slightly shorter than the rest, yet taller than Taylor. She was also a bit chunkier than the other girls but it didn’t take away from her looks in the slightest.
To be a member of this clique, looks were not enough. You had to be beyond good looking if you were going to walk with this privileged collection of goddesses, and you better have the money, the heels, and social standing to go with it.