Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, this harrowing middle grade debut novel-in-verse from a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.
When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.
With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.
As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?
About the Author
Megan E. Freeman attended an elementary school where poets visited her classroom every week and she has been a writer ever since. She writes middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as poetry for adults.
Also an award-winning teacher, Megan has decades of experience teaching in the arts and humanities and is nationally recognized for her work leading professional development workshops for educators. (Photo credit: Laura Cars)
Interview (by Jessica Vitalis)
Jessica: Megan, thank you for sharing an advanced reader copy of ALONE with me; this middle grade survival story captured my heart from the very first page and I’m thrilled to celebrate your debut with you today!
Megan: Thank you so much, Jessica. I’m delighted you enjoyed the book.
Jessica: Speaking of celebrating, do you have any fun plans for the rest of the day?
Megan: I am very excited to be launching ALONE with a virtual book birthday party hosted by BookBar Denver, a wonderful bookstore that’s incredibly supportive of children’s books and local authors. We’ll be live-streaming on Zoom and I’ll be reading from ALONE and talking with the always-delightful Marilyn Robbins. I think cake and champagne may be involved.
Jessica: Sounds like fun! Now let's talk a little about your book. I’ve never written a survival story, but I imagine one of the challenges would be that the main character doesn’t have anyone else to interact with; was this a challenge in writing ALONE and if so, how did you overcome it?
Megan: It was a challenge, you’re right. I didn’t fully appreciate how challenging it was until I introduced George the rottweiler. Having him in the story was a huge relief because it gave Maddie someone to interact with and talk to. I suddenly understood why Scott O’Dell gave Karana so many animal friends in Island of the Blue Dolphins, and why Tom Hanks needed Wilson in Castaway. Another thing that really helped was writing the story in verse instead of prose. The poetry allowed me to access aspects of Maddie’s interior life and explore her emotional responses. In a different novel, those things might have been revealed through dialogue and interaction with other characters.
Jessica: I’m assuming you never spent two years alone in an abandoned city; is there any part of this story that was inspired by your real life?
Megan: I never have and I never want to! But I did steal from real life in order to create the structure of Maddie’s dilemma. When my daughter was growing up, she spent half her time living with me and half her time with her dad and stepmom, so I borrowed from our family arrangement to create Maddie’s opportunity to be separated from her parents. My own parents kept an apartment they only used seasonally when my daughter was young, so I borrowed that idea as a way for Maddie to hold the secret sleepover at her grandparents’ place. And as I was writing the book, I imagined Millerville as the same town where we lived, so almost all of the settings Maddie explores are based on real places.
Jessica: This might be a chicken and egg question, but I’m curious as to whether you always knew you’d write ALONE as a novel in verse, or was that something that came about as you refined the story idea?
Megan: The writing of the book had many iterations over many years. I actually wrote the early drafts in prose, in third person voice, and in past tense. After many rounds of revisions, submissions, and feedback from multiple sources, I revised the entire book, this time tapping into my experience and skill as a poet. I rewrote the story in free verse, using first person voice and present tense. This allowed me to really explore the solitary and sensory nature of Maddie’s experience. The poetry really freed the story. I could feel it happening even as I was rewriting it.
Jessica: According to your bio, poets visited your school regularly when you were younger; is there any one piece of advice that they gave you that you want to share with our readers, or is there any advice that you wish you could give your younger self?
Megan: Each week the poets would choose examples from the poems we had written and a parent volunteer would type them up. Then our teacher made copies and the following week we would read and talk about them as a class. I loved the sensation of seeing my work printed in that purple ink on those mimeographed pages, and I think that’s when I first realized that writing poetry was a way of connecting with other people. Another thing I remember so distinctly was the way in which we played with language. We did one exercise where we were all instructed to start writing a poem and the poets walked around the room carrying dictionaries. They would occasionally stop and whisper a random word in our ears and we had to immediately use that word in our poem. The invitation to improvise on the page and let ourselves be surprised by what showed up never left me. At the end of the year, the poets published collections of our work in professionally bound books and we were all given copies. I still have them. I think they made me understand that writing well and publishing books was something any of us could do if we worked at it.
Jessica: I know you have a lot of celebrating to do so I’ll wrap things up, but can our readers join your virtual launch event tonight?
Jessica: Fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me and congratulations on your debut!
Megan: Thank you so much!
Pick up a copy of ALONE at your favorite indie bookstore or at the following retailers: