Bog Tour: Love is Both Wave and Particle
By: Paul Cody
LOVE IS BOTH WAVE AND PARTICLE
“My First Book for Teens”
This achingly beautiful novel considers how to measure love when it has the power to both save and destroy.
Levon Grady and Samantha Vash are both students at an alternative high school for high-achieving but troubled teens. They have been chosen for a year-long project where they write their life stories and collect interviews from people who know them. The only rule is 100% confidentiality—they will share their work only with each other. What happens will transform their lives.
Told from the perspectives of Levon, Sam, and all the people who know them best, this is a love story infused with science and the exploration of identity. Love Is Both Wave and Particle looks at how love behaves in different situations, and how it can shed light on even the darkest heart.
I didn’t intend to write Love Is Both Wave and Particle for teenagers. I had always written dark literary fiction for adults, usually about people who were mentally ill, or somehow living at the margins of society—in prisons, or mental hospitals, or on the streets.
But I taught at colleges and universities for more than fifteen years, and nearly all my students were anywhere from seventeen to twenty-one years old. One course I taught often was focused on personal essay and writing from experience.
The very nature of that course encouraged students to write about their lives, their hopes, fears, the things that had upset them or gave them joy. The students often wrote about cutting, eating disorders, sexual assault, depression, alcohol and drug problems, and serious problems with their parents.
I got to know the students unusually well, because they were writing from the heart. It made me realize how even “normal-seeming” students were often carrying heavy emotional burdens, and how often, writing about the burdens would somehow ease the pain.
I also have two sons who had recently passed through their mid to late teens. So, I felt I knew kids of that age.
Kids that age are in flux. Not quite adults, not only teenagers. They have driver’s licenses, are only a year away from voting or joining the military. Many drink alcohol, at least a little, some smoke weed.
I wanted to write a novel about two seventeen-year-olds, each with some history of mental illness or disability, and throw them together, in a fairly small setting, to see what would happen.
Would they hate each other?
Understand each other?
Might they fall in love?
Might they even change each other in big or small ways?
Part of being a teenager, I’d always thought, was growing up and away from the influence of parents and home, and finding different influences in the world, from friends, teachers, musicians, books, and the internet. Many things go into the process of growing up.
As I got deeper in the writing of Love Is Both Wave and Particle, the characters deepened and changed for me. Often, a character who I thought was a certain kind of person, who was cynical and heartless, turned out to have lots of heart and a real sense of decency. It had just been buried beneath a façade of cynical cool.
My main characters, Sam and Levon, were often contradicting my expectations for them. I wanted them to go left, and they wanted to go right. And in pretty much every case, I tried to watch and listen carefully, and I nearly always followed their leads.
Characters become alive to me as I’m writing, and I develop great respect and affection for them during the creation of a novel.
When I finished the novel, and sent it to the woman who’s now my agent, she read it and said, “This is a terrific young adult novel.”
I was absolutely surprised, but very curious about the genre. I thought of Huck Finn and The Catcher in the Rye, and that in many ways those are young adult novels, and those are also novels I had loved for decades.
And then when I thought of the thousands of students I had taught, and when I looked at my two sons and their many friends, it made perfect sense that I had written a novel about young adults for young adults.
Just as my characters had surprised me, I had surprised myself.
Paul Cody earned an MFA at Cornell University, and has published several novels and a memoir for adults. He lives in Ithaca, New York, with his wife, the poet Elizabeth Holmes, and their two sons. Love Is Both Wave and Particle is his first novel for teenagers.
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