I met Jen Petro-Roy at this year’s Bay Area Book Festival, and P.S. I MISS YOU is a beautiful Middle Grade story about the importance of finding your authentic self.
Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.
As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.
According to the “About” page on your website, you’ve worked as a children’s librarian and as a teacher. In what ways, if any, did these careers contribute to your life as an author?
The one thing I have found throughout my careers is that I can’t escape from books! I definitely believe that all of the work I’ve done is connected to and builds upon the others. I loved working as a children’s and teen librarian–getting to order and recommend books, plan programs, and interact with patrons was so wonderful. It was also great because I could spend time with the age group I was writing about to get a sense of how my readers really act “in the wild.”
What great experience! I love how P.S. I MISS YOU confronts the damage a strict upbringing can do to someone’s sense of identity. What do you hope readers gain from Evie’s story?
One of the things I try to get across in all of my books is that it is okay to be who you are. When those around you, whether parents or friends or family members or even “society”, determine that you should act in a certain way or be someone other than you truly are, it can truly affect your life and self-esteem. In P.S. I Miss You, Evie’s parents aren’t evil, but they do cling tightly to beliefs and standards that ultimately prove harmful to both them and their daughters. Through Evie’s journey, she realizes that she doesn’t have to act and believe the way others do to be happy, and I so hope that my readers know that the same goes for them. The world may be a certain way, but you can be who you are.
Definitely a way to show readers that they can be authentic, not only within themselves, but in their everyday lives. In your upcoming books, GOOD ENOUGH, and YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH, you explore issues related to body image and self-esteem. What do you think is most important for young people to know about these issues?
Body image concerns and eating disorders aren’t just for girls. Even though Good Enough does feature a female protagonist, it’s so important for readers to know that disordered eating can affect anyone–regardless of gender, age, sexuality, skin color, or socioeconomic background. It’s hard to feel okay with who you are and what you look like in this appearance and accomplishment-based society, but recovery is possible. You can get through your struggles and learn to accept–even love–your body. You are worth it and you are wonderful.
So true–and helpful to remember. What are some of your current projects?
Advanced copies of Good Enough and You are Enough are starting to make their way out into the world (both will be released on February 19, 2019), and I’m hard at work on my next middle grade, which involves friend drama, swimming, and a girl struggling with an anxiety disorder.