Thursday, March 28, 2013

Haunted at 17: Celebrating Nova Ren Suma's New Novel "17 & Gone"

A few weeks ago in Boston at the AWP meeting I sat down in a packed lecture hall – hey, there were at least 11,000 attendees at this thing – and the girl next to me saw my name tag and said, “Are you the author Janet Fox? I’m Nova Ren Suma.” Well, for me, that was the ultimate fan-girl moment – in addition to being almost scary coincidence – because I loved Nova’s breathtaking IMAGINARY GIRLS to pieces. We shared some great conversations over the next two days, and she shared her excitement at the launch of her newest, 17 & GONE.

As part of her launch Nova invited people to write blog posts about being “Haunted at 17”, which I think is a hugely fun idea, so I decided to play. Here’s my post:

I was sure I’d met the love of my life at 17. He was funny, sweet, tall, good-looking but not creepily so. He played basketball, but not perfectly. He was a photographer, and for that, he had a real talent. He wrote me beautiful letters. He sang to me (off-key) over the phone. We were both madly in love and I’m betting my life would be way, way different now if...but I was haunted.

Haunted by the future.

Me at 17, taken by Mike
Because, at 17, secure and happy with Mike, I decided one day to drop him like a hot rock. And I dropped him for his at-the-time-but-not-to-continue best friend.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. But only in hindsight, from way down life’s road.

I said, “Let’s date other people.”

“Why?” he asked, bewildered.

I shrugged. He cried. I didn’t feel bad. In fact, I was kind of cruel. Ok, just cruel.

I didn’t tell Mike that I found John sexy, that I wanted to make out with him, that I was tired of the same old, same old, but that was the truth.

I dated John for about five minutes, and then someone else whose name I don’t remember, and about that time I realized that maybe I’d been an idiot, but it was too late. Mike had started dating someone else, and he stuck with her through the rest of high school and beyond.

Yeah, I dated other guys, but what I wouldn’t know – for years and years – was just how special Mike was and how special that relationship was and how rare it is to find that soul connection with someone. How rare to feel secure in someone else’s affections. How rare and special he was as a person.

When I was in college I met Mike again by chance. He was living in New York as I was, and making his slow way up the ladder to professional photography. We went out several times and I fell madly in love with him all over again, and then one day he dropped me like a hot rock.

“Why?” I asked, bewildered.

“Because I don’t love you,” he answered. I cried. He hung up the phone.

I was 17 all over again, and haunted by my stupid, stupid, stupid mistake.

Fast forward another three years and I still hadn’t met anyone else like Mike. I was lonely, dating out of boredom, random and sad. I was traveling through London and lo and behold ran into Mike on the street. We had dinner, with some people including the woman who would become his wife. He was still funny, sweet, amazingly talented, having hit the big time as a pro photographer, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him. My heart ached and ached. All through dinner I wanted to weep.

I was 17 all over again. Again.

Two years later I met my husband. He’s funny, sweet, tall, terrifically good-looking, and a talented scientist. We fell madly in love and have had a happy marriage for many years.

About five years into my marriage I learned that Mike died in London of a sudden heart attack, leaving a wife and two children.

And leaving me. Or, the 17-year-old me. Who still, in some small corner of her heart, grieves for what might have been, but, hey. I was stupid at 17.

Check out the fabulous blog posts "Haunted at 17" on Nova's blog: 


Unknown said...

Wow, I loved your post. I'm a Nova Ren fangirl, too, so I had to check it out. My story is kind of the reverse. I fell head over heels in love for the first time when I was 17. He dropped me on my head, we stayed friends, but I always wondered what if. I met the man who's now my husband a couple years later. I won't lie, I still wondered about my Haunted at 17 guy. Then my now husband died suddenly from an undiagnosed genetic heart condition--and was found in time to save him. Ghost guy are still friends but the chance of losing my partner for real made it clear who was for me. Ten years later, we're still married and happy.

Janet Fox said...

Oh, Kristina, what a great story! I'm so happy you are happy, and what a terrific moral. Thanks for stopping by!

Camille said...

I love this. That's really all I can say.

Camille said...

I love this. That's really all I can say.

Janet Fox said...

Thank you, Camille. Hugs.

Nova Ren Suma said...


I love this post so much! It gives me tears—and chills. I am so honored you'd post it and help me celebrate the book (and say such kind words about me!). I also loved our coincidental—and perfect—moment of meeting at AWP.


Janet Fox said...

Thank you, Nova! I look forward to our crossing paths many times. Cheers to "17 & Gone"!