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May 20, 2015

Living Life to the Fullest --- Guest Post by Katie McGarry


A lot of people live by certain philosophies --- “always say yes,” “be honest no matter what,” “think before you speak,” “follow your heart”…the list goes on and on. In her beautiful blog post below, author Katie McGarry explains why “live life to the fullest” is her personal mantra, and how it wound its way into her new book, NOWHERE BUT HERE.

I’m genuinely grinning. I notice the bruises dotting the inside of Olivia’s arm and my happy mo­ment fades. “How sick are you?”

Olivia produces the sad smile. The type where the corners of the mouth tilt up, but the lower lip is yanking down. The one my mom does when she pretends everything is okay and it isn’t. My stomach cramps seeing it on Olivia.

“Sick enough that I threw my own wake.”

A shiver runs through me and I push the conversation for­ward, away from coffins. “What type of cancer?”

“You’ve been hanging out too much with Oz. He focuses on details he can’t change, never on what he can.”

            --From NOWHERE BUT HERE

A riding lawn mower, a gravel road that led to a crystal cool lake, a hot day with a clear blue sky and a road that was shaded by thick aging maples and oaks. Life back then was long summer days, short humid nights and a trailer that only had one room with a window air conditioning unit, and the possibilities were endless.

Little did I know that my mother was right --- our days together were numbered. I was in high school and my mother had to be wrong. My best friend wasn’t as ill as my mother kept telling me. If my best friend was dying, she wouldn’t laugh as hard as she did, take on the crazy moments on the riding lawn mower (our only source of transportation and, in our defense, we only really flipped once) and she wouldn’t take the miles long walk with me and the Labs to the lake. And she sure as hell couldn’t finish off the Doritos and chocolate frosting that we ate when we watched Christian Slater movies.

It was hard to think about death when someone was so…alive.

It was impossible to think of life without her because my best friend lived with the philosophy of not focusing on the things she couldn’t change, but on the things she could.

She couldn’t change what was happening inside her body, but she could live life to the fullest and she taught me to do the same. Even when I was too scared to climb the huge rock for the first time and jump into the lake below, even when I was embarrassed after my bathing suit dipped a little too low after water skiing, even after guys we shouldn’t have been with at a place we shouldn’t have been at had asked us to dance…she pushed forward, took my hand and smiled that fantastic grin and told me to live.

So I did and I have never regretted it.

In my newest novel, NOWHERE BUT HERE, the first book in the Thunder Road young adult series, I breathed life into some of these unforgettable moments and focused on my best friend’s philosophy.

Emily, the book’s 17-year-old protagonist, is the mostly-estranged daughter of one of the most respected members of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club and she is forced to spend the summer with her father, his family and his fellow bikers. The problem? She honestly has no idea who he is or who his family is, and she has no interest in learning anything about the club.

Emily’s fears and hesitations as she’s forced outside her comfort zone are drawn from my own. When I first showed up at that trailer at the lake, I was a little freaked. It was small and different from my world, and seriously? Almost no air conditioning in a 110 heat index? A phone that only worked half the time, channels that hardly ever came in on the television and a constant stream of bologna sandwiches?

It should have been hell, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was laughter and adrenaline rushes and me falling in love with my best friend more deeply than I thought possible --- because there are different kinds of love. There’s romantic love, there is familial love and there is the love we have for our friends.

In the book, Emily gets to explore an area of Kentucky that was a lot like the summer place my best friend had. She gets to experience rushes like she’s never felt before and she learns to fall in love with people --- not just romantic love, but the love of friendship and family.

NOWHERE BUT HERE  is a love story in so many ways, and it’s also a tribute to the legacy my best friend taught me to live by --- not to focus on the things I can’t change, but on the things I can, and to live life to the fullest.  

Katie was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings and reality television, and she is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan. Katie's debut novel with Harlequin Teen, PUSHING THE LIMITS, was released on July 31, 2012. NOWHERE BUT HERE will be released on May 26, 2015.