Happy Sunday and welcome to my stop on the Sparrow blog tour!! I am so excited to be a part of this tour, and I’m even more excited for you to discover Mary’s favorite quote from her book, what music she listens to while writing, and some fun research that didn’t make it into the book! Plus, follow the rest of the tour and enter to win a print copy of Sparrow!
Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson
Published on March 17, 2020 by Tor Teen
Genres: YA, Contemporary
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In the tradition of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a devastating but hopeful YA debut about a ballerina who finds the courage to confront the abuse that haunts her past and threatens her future.
There are two kinds of people on the planet. Hunters and preyI thought I would be safe after my mother died. I thought I could stop searching for new places to hide. But you can’t escape what you are, what you’ve always been.My name is Savannah Darcy Rose.And I am still prey.
Though Savannah Rose―Sparrow to her friends and family―is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Sparrow has always believed that her lifelong creed―“I’m not the kind of girl who tells”―will make her just like everyone else: Normal. Happy. Safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Sparrow must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, or lose herself forever….
Do you have a favorite scene, quote, or moment from Sparrow?
I love this conversation between Lucas and Sparrow, near the end of the book:
Lucas: My grandmother told me that when you love somebody who’s battling demons, it doesn’t help if you stand in front of them, trying to shield them from the pain. She said that makes them powerful and you presumptuous.
Sparrow: Your granny is pretty smart.
Lucas: She said it’s better if you stand beside them, holding their swords.
Sparrow: Is that what you’re doing Lucas? Holding my swords?
Lucas: Always. For as long as you’ll let me.
What is your favorite piece of research you didn’t end up using?
I did a lot of research on ballet, obviously, and I was captivated by the story of Tanaquil LeClercq, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. In 1956, at the height of her career, she contracted polio while on tour in Copenhagen and never danced again. For a period of about three weeks, I couldn’t stop reading about her.
What would you do if you spent the day with Sparrow? Where would you go to eat, hang out, relax, etc.?
Sparrow has been through so much grief and trauma in her young life, and my first instinct as a mother would be to bundle her into my car and drive her to a place where I could protect her and shield her from the world. But of course, as Lucas learns, you can’t ever “fix” someone else. Sparrow has to stare down all her demons and find a way to heal herself. She is haunted, something that doesn’t always go away so easily, and I think she may have to work on conquering that for a long time.
I would take Sparrow to the beach, because it’s hard to pay attention to your ghosts in a place that’s all bright sunshine and sparkling sapphire sea. We’d have a long lunch at burger dive overlooking the ocean, where there’s sand on the floor and everything smells like French fries and Coppertone. We’d swim and lie in the sun, maybe get a little sunburned, stay until the sun starts to set, and then stop for milkshakes on the way home. She’d fall asleep in the car, and I’d sing her lullabies, softly, so I wouldn’t wake her.
If Sparrow could hang out with other YA characters, who would they be and why??
Definitely Grace, Rosina, and Erin from Amy Reed’s The Nowhere Girls. Erin, who is autistic, is a beautifully rendered character, one who’s suffered trauma and refuses to talk about it to anyone, ever. Grace and Rosina face challenges and grief of their own, but they all band together to fight great evil and injustice in their high school and their community, in spite of what it costs them.
I also love to think of Sparrow being close friends with characters from YA fantasy novels, like Serafina Pekkala and Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass. Serafina is a witch, beautiful and ancient and wise, and I think she would take Sparrow under her wing, as she did with Lyra. Lyra is fierce and brave and never backs down. Of course, Katniss Everdeen, because, you know, the whole bow and arrow thing. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, because she is such a loyal and loving friend.
What inspired you to write this story?
As a reader, I’ve always been drawn to stories about people who silence themselves – or are silenced by others – after trauma. It’s such a strong instinct, to go quiet, to push terrible things down into the deepest, darkest part of yourself, to try to pretend it never happened. That powerful instinct for silence as a means to self-preservation has always moved me.
When I began Sparrow, I was struggling to finish another YA novel. It wasn’t going well, and I knew it, because I wasn’t feeling that strong, visceral connection to the story that keeps me engaged and focused. One night, I heard a story on the news that made my blood run cold. A high-school girl had gotten drunk at a party and passed out. While she was unconscious, some boys took naked pictures of her and posted them on Facebook. I was so sickened and horrified by their cruelty and depravity that I couldn’t sleep. I wondered how that girl would feel once she woke up and realized what had happened to her. I wondered if she would silence herself, if she had a strong support system, if she could lean on people who loved her. One morning, I got up just before sunrise, put aside the novel that was obviously going nowhere, and wrote the first line of the first draft of Sparrow: I am not the kind of girl who tells.
Mary Cecilia Jackson has worked as a middle school teacher, an adjunct instructor of college freshmen, a technical writer and editor, a speechwriter, a museum docent, and a development officer for central Virginia’s PBS and NPR stations. Her first novel, Sparrow, was an honor recipient of the SCBWI Sue Alexander Award and a young-adult finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas manuscript contest. She lives with her architect husband, William, in Western North Carolina and Hawaii, where they have a farm and five ridiculously adorable goats.