Guest Post about The Edge of Limits by Susanne Gervay for PaperbarkWords blog
Susanne Gervay writes important, ground-breaking books. Her new YA novel The Edge of Limits is hard-hitting and enlightening about a number of issues, particularly that of consent. Timely indeed.
The Edge of Limits cements Susanne’s position as one of our leading agitators and advocates for good through literature.
Susanne writes about The Edge of Limits:
Female empowerment and consent form the basis of so much of my writing.
Growing up as the child of refugees, my parents went through terrorism and war. Weapons of war included horrific acts against women. My father rarely told the stories of war, but there was one he never forgot. In forced labour, my father didn’t know he was a hero. I knew. He enabled the escape of a Russian grandmother and her little daughter from ‘a tool of war’, rape. Despite the atrocities of the past, my parents always had the spirit of survival and building a new life. It left me with the legacy of seeking justice.
My 1996 novel ‘Shadows of Olives Trees’ goes to the heart of girls and women fighting for equality. Daisy Sunshine is a chapter book about Feminism and Women’s Rights.
And now, my new novel The Edge of Limits delves into adolescent relationships and consent looking into the complexities of boys as they confront sexuality, power, and relationships.
It is a journey of a school camp hiking deep into the mountains. It is the passage from the culture of beach parties, school, sex, and consent to the wilds of trekking, abseiling, rock climbing, sweaty days, and freezing wilderness. Protagonist 17-year-old Sam battles not only his grief over losing his grandfather, but whether he should speak out about a sexual assault he found out about of his classmate at a Rave party. As he battles the terrain as well as the physical and emotional challenges of school survival camp with classmates over eight gruelling days, he is forced to choose whether he must confront the rape and decide to remain silent or to speak.
We continue to be shocked at private schools, catholic colleges, state schools, universities, the culture of the ‘boys’ clubs’. Government campaigns now advocate ‘respect’. Endless academic papers on gender equity proliferate. Schools have CONSENT programs and tick the boxes. Books on ‘safe’ behaviours appear in bucketloads. We have the voices of young women like the Australian of the Year, Grace Tame and Chantal Contos’ 7000 testimonies from girls who shared their abuse experiences. The media is filled with the victims of abuse and the abusers.
However, more needs to be done. I knew I needed to write about consent based on a real story, looking into how boys deal with the turbulence of their emotions. Boys feel so much, yet they rarely talk about the turbulence of their emotions. Especially country boys, many of whom face mental health issues and suicide. It’s not good enough. It can never be good enough.
And Australia has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. Giving adolescent boys an avenue with which to feel confident to speak up will help them learn to deal with emotions by talking and speaking up.
The Edge of Limits goes into new territory. It will challenge young adults with their decisions in real life scenes. It will teach boys how to understand their critical choices and girls need to read it so they understand the drivers for male action. I hope it allows them to engage in the story and think critically.
Most of all, The Edge of Limits it is a call to action for change, and I hope it inspires young adult readers to find courage within and begin having those important conversations.
Interview with Susanne Gervay about Heroes of the Secret Underground at PaperbarkWords blog