Take Five with NARC author Crissa-Jean Chappell
Jul 22nd, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

Crissa-Jean Chappell with NARC


By Crissa-Jean Chappell

What could happen if you’re caught by the police with illegal drugs? Criss-Jean Chappell discovered that many young adults are forced to turn NARC, many more than anyone could imagine, or face severe consequences, including jail time. Here’s my review as posted on GOODREADS – NARC by Crissa-Jean Chappell is a powerful, eye-opening novel about a boy named Aaron who gets himself into some serious trouble. I was deeply impressed with how Chappell brought out Aaron’s voice, making him a sympathetic, troubled young man who is deeply loyal to family, protective of friends, and caught in the middle of his poor choices from the past and his current desire to make changes in his life. He takes some stupid risks and gets mixed up in some pretty messy things, all involving drugs. This is a cautionary tale – well written, strong voice, and fascinating supporting characters.
I definitely recommend NARC. This book should be in every HS.

Here’s your chance to win a copy of NARC through GOODREADS –


AND – ONE LUCKY WINNER will receive a copy from ME when the book debuts – Just post a comment below. Twitter followers – 1 extra entry. Facebook followers – 1 extra entry, Tweet or post on Facebook – each counts as an extra entry. Follow Crissa-Jean on Twitter @CrissaChappell – 1 extra entry – GIVEAWAY ENDS: SUNDAY, JUNE 29, 8PM CST, WINNER CHOSEN – QU HARRISON

1. NARC is a powerful novel about perceptions – people aren’t who they seem on the outside. This message goes with the concept of “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” How do you apply this to the characters in NARC?

When the story opens, Aaron is in his senior year at Palm Hammock. In his mind, everybody at school wears a mask. Sometimes it feels like you’re given an assigned role (like players in a chess game). He dreams about flipping the board and starting over with a new set of rules.

Aaron is “human wallpaper.” He’s on the outside, looking in. Then he meets Morgan, the so-called popular girl with the Cleopatra hair. As they grow closer, he learns that things aren’t so easy for her, either. At lunch, she would rather sit under a tree with a book than face the stares and whispers in the cafeteria. He soon finds out why.

2. Often in life, young adults have a tough time identifying their strengths. But once a person focuses on them, they can guide a person in making a difference in this world. Looking at Aaron, take one or two of his strengths. What would you wish for him to do with them?

Although he wouldn’t call himself strong, Aaron makes a lot of difficult decisions. He’s not an adult yet, but he’s forced into a position that requires him to act like one. At last, someone is taking him seriously. I believe that young adults are often pushed off to the side. They feel like their thoughts and opinions don’t matter. All they want is for us to listen. Aaron needs to find his voice. That’s where he discovers his inner strength.

3. On the flip side, many people get locked in their weaknesses. What are Aaron’s weaknesses and what can he do to start moving away from using them as a crutch to fail?

He desperately wants to be liked. Throughout the book, he uses magic tricks to get attention. In a way, Aaron feels like he has to pretend (or be fake) in order for people to like him. Sometimes it takes the shape of lies. Or hiding your true feelings, all because you’re afraid of being judged. The kid who’s cracking jokes in the back row? He might be hurting on the inside, but never shows it.

Pretending is like battle armor in high school.

4. NARC definitely makes the reader think. How has this story impacted you, changed you?

In my research, I discovered that it’s not as unusual as you might think—young people (including teens) who put their lives in danger to work as police informants. I was drawn to the idea of a seventeen-year-old doing an adult’s job. And I was curious about the ways it would change his view of the world.

5. You said that you see yourself as a little bit of an “outsider” or an observer. What do you mean and why has it made you a better writer?

Much like Aaron, I floated like a ghost through school (and that was okay with me). Sometimes I wanted to be invisible. That would be my super power. When you’re quiet and spend a lot of time alone, you learn to pay attention.

As a storyteller, you must be an observer of human behavior. That’s where you find the good stuff—the way people speak, the funny gestures they make. I also love to draw. When I’m working on a book, I see it as “drawing with words.” I try to create little portraits of things around me. It might be the smell of low tide at Biscayne Bay. Or a boy speeding past me on a skateboard. He’s got his headphones on and he knows exactly where he’s going. I’ll make up what happens next.

DON’T MISS THESE VIDEOS: And guess what? Crissa-Jean made them.  Here’s what she said: “Yes, I made the videos. (I was a film major in college and I also taught film back in Miami.) One of my former students, Marlon Morina, designed the animated trailer for NARC. In fact, I’m working on a new book about…film school kids!

NARC book trailer from crissachappell on Vimeo.

Literary Outlaws

NARC: seven secrets from crissachappell on Vimeo.

literary outlaws from crissachappell on Vimeo.

From Pot to Heroin to Jail Time – An 18-Year-Old Speaks of his Downward Spiral with Drugs
Aug 31st, 2009 by Liza Wiemer


I Hope You Can Learn Something From My Story

By Ben Coplin, age 18


A Heroin User

A Heroin User

My downward spiral started when I was fourteen.  I had been in and out of ten different school settings since 3rd grade for being oppositional with teachers, not doing the work, and distracting other students from learning.  Having ADHD didn’t help.  What led up to my downward spiral was sixteen months of hell at a place that was supposed to be a therapeutic boarding school (a school for troubled teens).  I was thirteen and placed in a group of fifteen to eighteen year olds.  I was the scapegoat and was mentally abused constantly. I also got the  x@##@!!  kicked out of me and was physically punished for things I often did not do.  Don’t get me wrong, I was not an angel.


I graduated from the boarding school program and came home around the time I turned fifteen.  I smoked pot a week after I got home.  It was the best stress reliever ever and that was when I fell in love with “Mary Jane.”  (Mary Jane is another name for pot.)  I smoked before school, during school, after school, and before I would go to sleep.  I would wake up at night, take a piss, and take a hit to fall back to sleep.  


I used pot to escape from my awful memories of boarding school.  I started hanging out with a different group of kids and began using a lot of LSD to see how far from earth I could get, if that makes sense. I liked seeing the parallel universe.


When I was almost sixteen I was put on juvenile probation for resisting arrest.  I was eating valium like candy and drinking way too much.  I don’t remember much besides walking down icy stairs and two cops falling on top of me.   Because I was on probation I had to go for drug tests.  (Failing a test meant finishing off my sentence.) I started using oxycontin because I felt the need to escape from myself.  Oxy doesn’t stay in the system as long as pot,  so I got away with passing a few drugs tests.  But not for too long.  I spent two weeks in juvenille detention.  I kept having bad dreams about my boarding school experience; it still haunts me today.  Oxy soon turned into sticking a needle in my arm three times a day or more.  I would shoot up  oxy, morphine, and heroin every day.  I not only became addicted to opiates, but addicted to the needle.  I loved the thrill of the process of getting high.  It was a sad existence.  Heroin was my new escape; it was like the warmest blanket on the coldest day….


I started missing school to get heroin.   Everything in my life revolved around it.  My group of friends eventually were only opiate users.  I tried to hide my problem from everyone else because I was so embarrassed.  I sold drugs to support my habit and soon realized I was a junkie.  


I’m writing this dressed in an orange jumpsuit, using a flexible pen while sitting on a three inch thick mat that I would not even call a mattress.  It has a built-in pillow.


Kids, I am now facing 16 1/2  years for selling drugs just to support my habit.  I’ll leave you with these words to wrap your mind around. Because of my drug use I lost relationships with my family to the point where there were none.  I was overdosing and nearly dying two times a month.  I would get so dope-sick I could not get out of bed.  I would lie all the time to cover up my addiction.  I thank my Mom for saving me.  She turned a needle in to my Probation Officer the day before my eighteenth birthday (early June, 2009).  If she didn’t I don’t think I would even be writing this, as a matter of fact I’m sure of it.


Note from Liza Wiemer:  I have changed Ben’s name.  I have known Ben since he was three years old.  He’s been more fortunate than most kids in this situation.  He has loving parents who have done everything they could think of (and then some) to help him.  The mom is one of the strongest, most courageous, most incredible human beings I know.  Most people would think that Ben came from a messed up family – but he didn’t.  He made poor choice, after poor choice, after poor choice despite hundreds of opportunities from loving adults (numerous professionals) who wanted to help him.  Ben has many amazing qualities, is very likable, and kind when he’s not on drugs.  He is still so young.  Can a person receive a 101 chances, 102, 103?  We hope so.  Your comments on Ben’s honest and heartfelt perspective would be deeply appreciated – encouragement too.  So, please take a few minutes and let him know what you think.  

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