Today we have an excerpt from You Can’t Shatter Me by Tahlia Newland. This heart-warming novella is written in a unique magical realism style where magical elements are presented in a straightforward manner that places the “real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of thought. The story inspires and empowers teens and adults alike with its solutions for the bullying issue. Tahlia has a short story called A Hole in the Pavement available free on kindle from 3rd to 7th July.
Sixteen year old Carly wants to write her own life and cast herself as a superhero, but the story gets out of control when she stands up to a bully and he turns on her. His increasing harassment forces her to deal with flying hooks, giant thistles, deadly dragons and a suffocating closet. Dylan, a karate-trained nerd who supports her stand against the bully, turns out to be a secret admirer, and while he struggles to control his inner caveman, Carly searches for her own way to stop the bully. An old hippie shows her an inner magic that’s supposed to make her invincible, but will Carly learn to use it before Dylan resorts to violence?
(You Can’t Shatter Me is told from the point of view of both Carly and Dylan. This excerpt is from Courage, one of Carly’s chapters.)I looked up just as fat boy Hobbs, the year’s most miserable example of the male of the species, staggered out of the Industrial Arts block. That ugly lump, Justin, the school terror, followed and pushed him into the wall with a thump. Justin grabbed Hobbs’s shirt, wrenched him close and hissed into his face. Hobbs swallowed, his eyes wide, a tic going manic at the side of his mouth. Justin laughed and I felt vaguely nauseous.“You piss me off again, Jello Jo, and your arse won’t be worth saving,” bully boy Justin spat at Hobbs.This was so wrong. I did not want to live in a world where bullies got away with playing their sick games, and here was my chance, a chance to write my superhero self into action. Or not.I urged myself forward but my feet stuck to the ground. I could hardly go in there without even a smart word as a weapon. Matthew should be heroic and rescue Hobbs, but he didn’t even look his way. Were he, Joe and Kane oblivious to what was going on, or were they actively ignoring the situation? Either way, I wasn’t impressed. Justin carried some weight beneath that grubby shirt and apparently had a skinhead as a role model, but Te Whanaka was as big; why didn’t he do something?Amy and Kirsty just stared, their expressions mirroring my own distaste. Damn it. This superhero doesn’t wait for any guy to do what she is quite capable of doing for herself.But was I capable? My heart pounded, terrified that Justin might hassle me if I interfered. Damn it, Carly; do something, you gutless porridge-head, or you won’t be able to live with yourself. I took a deep breath and assured myself that I could write this the way I wanted.I strode up to Justin just as he shook poor Hobbs so hard his jowls shook.“I d…didn’t mean to,” he stuttered, his face red and sweaty.“Lay off him, you big jerk,” I said.Justin narrowed his eyes and his mouth curled into a sneer. “Piss off, you stupid bitch.”“Not until you let him go.”“Or what?”I shrugged. “I’ll think of something.” Yeah, pathetic, I know.Justin snorted his derision, but released Hobbs after giving him another shake. “Later, fatboy,” he called as Hobbs skittled away, then he shoved his face right up to mine. I pulled my head back, but stood my ground, hoping the pounding in my chest didn’t sound as loud to him as it did to me. “You’re gonna wish you hadn’t poked your nose in my business.”“Picking on girls now, are you, Justin?” said a male voice from behind me.I spun around. Dylan, the maths whiz, stood there smiling, his shirt dazzling in its pristine whiteness.“Piss off, nerd,” Justin said.I bit my lip; without Justin’s brawn, Dylan’s words were his only weapons. I hoped he had plenty of sharp ones.“You’re the one who needs to leave.” Dylan jerked his head towards the duty teacher coming our way.Justin’s top lip curled in disgust. They glared at each other for a moment, Dylan’s gaze sharp enough to do damage. Then Justin spat on the ground, just missing Dylan’s shoes. “You’ll pay for this,” he hissed before sauntering away.“Such a cultured fellow,” Dylan said in a beautifully executed parody of an upper-class English accent.I glanced at Matthew. He still looked the other way, but Dylan was smiling at me, so I smiled back, right into his blue eyes.“Um,” he said, then blinked twice and looked at the ground.Awkward. Was I supposed to leave or say something? Did he just rescue me? No, I’d had it under control. Hadn’t I?He ran his hand through his black hair, and I was just about to mumble a thank you when he lifted his head and fixed me with those big eyes. “That was pretty cool, standing up to Justin like that.”“What? Oh. Thanks. I hate seeing that kind of stuff and no one doing anything about it.” I shot another glance at the disinterested Matthew. When I turned back, Dylan was looking at me all intense like.“I, um,” he said, shuffling his feet.I jerked my thumb to my two-woman cheer squad grinning at me from the sidelines. “I should get back to my friends.”“I loved your painting,” he blurted out before I could turn away.“You saw that?” Duh. Obviously. One of my cemetery paintings had been in the Best-of-Year-Ten Art Exhibition.“Yeah, it was awesome. Really. You got the texture on the stones just right. The lichen looked totally real, and I loved the colour contrast between the gravestones and the sky and the creepy black shadows.” He stopped suddenly, as if he’d caught himself babbling, then his voice softened. “I’ve been wanting to… to tell you that for a while, actually.”My eyes widened and scanned his lanky form. Dylan? Me and a nerd?“I was w…wondering…” he stammered on.I should put him out of his misery, but how? This story had just gotten way out of my control. I glanced at Kirsty for support, but she just grinned, gave me a thumbs up and dragged Amy away. They tiptoed around the corner like cartoon characters. Luckily, Dylan couldn’t see them.
Tahlia is an avid reader, an extremely casual high school teacher, an occasional mask-maker and has studied philosophy & meditation for many years. After scripting and performing in Visual Theatre shows for 20 years, she is now a bone-fide expatriate of the performing arts. She lives in an Australian rainforest, is married with a teenage daughter and loves cats, but she doesn’t have one because they eat native birds.
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