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  • phoenixblackwoodwr


Today’s the day – the release of the final installment of the Surviving Youth Trilogy, The Family that Finds Us

It’s been an incredible journey. I first created the characters of this universe over a decade ago, and never dreamed that they’d ever be published. They were my friends, my companions, the people that helped me get through some really tough days, even if they weren’t real. They were still real to me, and they all hold a special place in my heart. When all my childhood friends left, they were there. When I was thrust into a school where I didn’t know a single person and didn’t have the confidence to approach people and make friends, they were there. When I struggled with my own identity, they were there to catch me and make the same mistakes before I did, so I had some kind of guide in this catastrophe called life.

These characters mean so much to me, and it’s really hard to let them go. To close the pages of the final book in this series is a monumental accomplishment, but it’s bittersweet at the same time. I love them with all my heart, they’re the only children I’ll ever have, at least in this sense. I’m still going to think about them fondly, and remember all the ways that the companionship I found written in these pages helped me through my young adult life. They’re always going to influence what I do in the future, and Theo’s book, the first book I ever completed, will always be my favorite, no matter how rough around the edges it is.

Phee’s book, however, is one that stuck with me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’ve evolved as a writer since publishing my first book, and the relationship between Phee and her mother changed from the way it was in Secrets. Originally, the dynamic was pretty two dimensional, a black and white case of abuse where the child saw no way out. Something changed between then and now, and so did their relationship. Phee’s mother is still abusive no matter how you look at it, but it’s not so cut and dry. There’s a lot of back and forth, between Phee’s parentification and her mother’s longing for the child she’d failed and watched grow up in a way she didn’t agree with.

The relationship is complicated to say the least, and even though her mother doesn’t treat her right, Phee still loves her. Her mother loves her, she just doesn’t know how to show it properly and lets her grief take over, her mental illness go unmedicated, and her addiction rule her life. This leaves Phee in a very difficult position. She cares for her mom, the only family she has, but at the same time resents the circumstances she’s been put in by her. Anyone would.

The reason this stuck with me so much, is a parallel to my own relationship with my mother, and writing this book opened my eyes to a lot of things I’d brushed aside. No, my mother was not physically abusive as Phee’s was, but I was still incredibly parentified, and felt like things were my responsibility at a very young age. I felt Phee’s obligation to take care of her mother, as well as the rejection when she began to discover her true self.

Even though Theo’s my favorite, I think Phee is the character that’s the most like me. She struggles with relationships, grappling with her feelings and wanting to people please her way into good social standing. She trusts few, but the ones she does become her whole world. She’s afraid to stand up for herself, for who she is, and she needs the advocacy of some strong friends by her side to help her. She doesn’t realize that what she can create is incredible, if she just lets go of her fears. She falls in love with her best friend, even though she doesn’t want to.

She just wants to be free to exist, as she is, and feel safe while doing it.

Phee taught me so much about myself and how I’ve come to be where I am, and I thank her deeply for it. She was always a back burner side character. The idea for this book was a far off “what if” that my publisher pushed me towards. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fill an entire book with her story, and boy was I wrong. She did that and then some. She brought everything together, into a beautiful close. She rounded out the series, gave Theo a place to fight for equality, and Alex a place to find her voice. All three of the characters evolved in this book, and I think it’s a beautiful ending.

Phee gave us the ending we all deserved, and I thank her for it.

And I thank you, reader, for taking the time to explore this series. For letting me tell these stories, and show a part of the world that people often forget about. To showcase the kids that are forgotten, cast aside, and struggle with their own inner demons. The kids that adults fail again and again, who take the pieces of their lives and put them together again in a way that means something, something incredible. These kids are our future, and they all deserve a fighting chance, they deserve for their stories to be told. I hope that you’ve seen the heart and soul that I’ve put into these stories, and I hope they’re as special to you as they are to me. At the very least, I hope you saw a side of the human experience that will make you value how everyone has a different story, and have overcome incredible obstacles to fight for what they believe in.

With this, we bring the Surviving Youth Trilogy to a close, and these characters can get some long deserved rest. It’s not the last you’ll be hearing from me – I’ve already begun to venture into New Adult as a genre and showcase the beauty life has to offer after adolescence, even in the face of tragedy.

I’ll see you during the debut of Cast to Ashes.

Thank you for everything, reader, and thank you my wonderful children, Theo, Alex, and Phee.

  • Phoenix Blackwood

The Family that Finds Us out TODAY! Order anywhere books are sold.

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