Stella Santos is fine.
Maybe something terrible happened to her that she can’t even remember. And maybe it drives her crazy when her friends treat her like she’s on the verge of breaking because of it. Maybe it feels even worse when they do what she asks and pretend that it never happened at all. And maybe she’s been getting harassing emails and messages for months from people who don’t even know her, but hate her all the same.
But none of that matters because she’s just fine.
For Ryan Blake, Stella was always that girl. Vibrant and hilarious and beautiful. He wanted her as his best friend. His more than friends. His everything and anything that she would give him. Which these days is a whole lot of nothing. She gets angry when he’s there. Angry when he’s not there. Angry when he tries to talk and when he doesn’t.
When Stella devises an unconventional art project for one of her classes all about exploring intimacy—between both friends and strangers—Ryan finds himself stepping in as guinea pig after one of her subjects bails. What was supposed to be an objective and artistic look at emotion and secrets and sex suddenly becomes much more personal. When he hits it off with another girl from the project, Stella will have to decide if she’s willing to do more than make art about intimacy. To keep him, she’ll have to open up and let herself be the one thing she swore she’d never be again.
To say that I’m excited that the Rusk University series is continuing, is an understatement. But what I’m most thrilled about, is the fact that this story will focus on Stella and Ryan’s budding relationship, after the traumatic event that nearly ruined her life. At the end of All Broke Down, Dylan and Silas discover that Stella has been sexually assaulted by someone on the football team. I don’t want to give away too much more, but here’s a snippet of Cora Carmack’s thoughts on the forthcoming novel.
“While I was writing All Broke Down, the news was inundated with information about the Steubenville rape trial and other tragedies and injustices like it. Tragedies where women have been violated first by an attacker, then by judgmental and hateful people, and finally by a justice system that repeatedly fails survivors of sexual assault. Having grown up in Texas, where too often football stars are treated like gods and can get away with just about anything, it hit particularly close to home. And since All Broke Down featured a passionate activist heroine, I felt compelled to reference this chronic dark underbelly of elite sports… So I let go of all the plans I had for her, and allowed her to tell me her story, which is about more than just sexual assault. It’s about the aftermath. Depression. Shame. Guilt. Anger. Injustice. Victim-blaming. Slut-shaming. It’s about the way that kind of event can change everything– how you relate to people, how you think, how you dream, how you love. It’s about the way the rest of the world moves on to the next big tragedy, and you’re still left holding the broken pieces of who you used to be, with no idea how to put them together again or even if you want to. It will be the most difficult story I ever tell. And the most important. Because it’s a story that belongs not just to Stella, but to millions of people around the world. It’s a story that belongs to a new person every 107 seconds*. And that’s just in the United States. Think about that for a moment. 107 seconds. Stella’s story won’t be any easier to read than it will be to write. But I hope you’ll help me drag this story into the light.”
*Statistic from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network)
Look for it to be published independently sometime in 2016. Cora has also included in her email that she is using this book as an outlet for her readers who’ve had similar experiences to Stella’s. There is additional information that I can provide to you, if you’re comfortable sharing your story or having it mentioned in the book. The forms can be anonymous or not – That is the readers choice. You can also use the hashtag #WhenItHappened on social media, to add your voice.