“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

I have this quote from Mason Cooley tacked to a bulletin board in my home office and as we sit here approaching a long cold winter in Chicago, this aphorism has never felt so real.

Books are my escape from reality, my deep dive into history, the opening of new worlds and an introduction to problems and issues that I need to understand. Books are a lot of what I talk about, think about and what I enjoy delving into when I have free time. I know this sounds familiar to those reading these words. Just the fact that you have your eyes on this column reveals you are also a reader and a seeker of what knowledge can be gained from the words of others.

I am so passionate about books that five years ago, I decided to try my hand at realizing my dream to become a published author. I took courses and worked with mentors and was so pleased to find that my writing voice fell easily into the young adult genre. I researched and wrote my first Young Adult book, got an agent, but failed to find a publishing house that was a good fit. 

I decided to self-publish my debut novel in March 2019, and I am so excited to see Spoken, which takes place partly in a fictional Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRFHS), and revolves around students involved in the Spoken Word Club, receive a Readers’ Favorite Award for Young Adult — Social Issues. 

My newly released self-published Young Adult novel, Crossing Lines, looks at the gun control divide from the point-of-view of two teens in love and reacting in different ways to the March for Our Lives events that grew out of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.  

In researching my book, I began talking with teens from OPRFHS who were engaged with the March for Our Lives movement, but I knew the liberal voices educating me about the outrage and action steps being taken were just one way that students were mobilizing and speaking out. I wanted to learn about the big picture firsthand. I knew also that to find those divergent voices I would need to look outside Oak Park, so I traveled further west and landed on the EMPOWER Club at York Community High School in Elmhurst. 

The students in this club were so welcoming and educated me about their activism around gun violence prevention and shared stories about the March for Our Lives rallies outside their school’s front steps. They introduced me to the nuances of how students from different parts of the political spectrum at their school connected in different ways, with some wearing red MAGA (referring to Trump’s Make America Great Again motto) hats to the rally, which is not something I would expect to see outside a rally at OPRFHS. It allowed me to provide that nuanced picture in my depiction of two March for Our Lives rallies outside a nameless suburban midwestern high school in my book. 

Most students are not learning in school buildings right now, but that doesn’t make the issue of school shootings less vital a priority. And that is what I hope Crossing Lines does — add to the contemporary YA landscape. It takes us back to a moment in time we must never forget and reminds us how students can rise up together all over our country and unleash a collective power to make their voices heard. 

“Spoken”, suggested for ages 12+, and “Crossing Lines”, recommended for ages 14 , are available locally at The Book Table, where there is currently a promotion for her new YA novel. Oak Park author Melanie Weiss is available for virtual school visits and programs. More: melanie-weiss.com.

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

I have this quote from Mason Cooley tacked to a bulletin board in my home office and as we sit here approaching a long cold winter in Chicago, this aphorism has never felt so real.

Books are my escape from reality, my deep dive into history, the opening of new worlds and an introduction to problems and issues that I need to understand. Books are a lot of what I talk about, think about and what I enjoy delving into when I have free time. I know this sounds familiar to those reading these words. Just the fact that you have your eyes on this column reveals you are also a reader and a seeker of what knowledge can be gained from the words of others.

I am so passionate about books that five years ago, I decided to try my hand at realizing my dream to become a published author. I took courses and worked with mentors and was so pleased to find that my writing voice fell easily into the young adult genre. I researched and wrote my first Young Adult book, got an agent, but failed to find a publishing house that was a good fit. 

I decided to self-publish my debut novel in March 2019, and I am so excited to see Spoken, which takes place partly in a fictional Oak Park and River Forest High School (OPRFHS), and revolves around students involved in the Spoken Word Club, receive a Readers’ Favorite Award for Young Adult — Social Issues. 

My newly released self-published Young Adult novel, Crossing Lines, looks at the gun control divide from the point-of-view of two teens in love and reacting in different ways to the March for Our Lives events that grew out of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.  

In researching my book, I began talking with teens from OPRFHS who were engaged with the March for Our Lives movement, but I knew the liberal voices educating me about the outrage and action steps being taken were just one way that students were mobilizing and speaking out. I wanted to learn about the big picture firsthand. I knew also that to find those divergent voices I would need to look outside Oak Park, so I traveled further west and landed on the EMPOWER Club at York Community High School in Elmhurst. 

The students in this club were so welcoming and educated me about their activism around gun violence prevention and shared stories about the March for Our Lives rallies outside their school’s front steps. They introduced me to the nuances of how students from different parts of the political spectrum at their school connected in different ways, with some wearing red MAGA (referring to Trump’s Make America Great Again motto) hats to the rally, which is not something I would expect to see outside a rally at OPRFHS. It allowed me to provide that nuanced picture in my depiction of two March for Our Lives rallies outside a nameless suburban midwestern high school in my book. 

Most students are not learning in school buildings right now, but that doesn’t make the issue of school shootings less vital a priority. And that is what I hope Crossing Lines does — add to the contemporary YA landscape. It takes us back to a moment in time we must never forget and reminds us how students can rise up together all over our country and unleash a collective power to make their voices heard. 

“Spoken”, suggested for ages 12 , and “Crossing Lines”, recommended for ages 14 , are available locally at The Book Table, where there is currently a promotion for her new YA novel. Oak Park author Melanie Weiss is available for virtual school visits and programs. More: melanie-weiss.com.

Join the discussion on social media!

One reply on “Crossing Lines shows two sides of gun control”