For Jen Brooks’ character Jonathan Aubrey, high school sucks. He’s friendless, barely getting by in his classes, and crushing on a girl who doesn’t notice him. But fortunately – or unfortunately – for him, he has the power to change his life. Or, at least, to change the alternate worlds he creates for himself in Brooks’s debut novel In a World Just Right.
After coming out of a coma as a kid, Jonathan has the ability to create alternate worlds – ones where he can be everything he’s not in a reality. Though feelings of grief and loneliness often cause isolation, Brooks knows these are universal feelings.
“I don’t know if readers are fascinated by these feelings, but I think all people can relate to them.”
While things in Jonathan’s alternate worlds may be smooth sailing, things take a turn when he mistakes reality for one of his other worlds – one where he and Kylie, the girl he likes, are together. Even if you haven’t read In a World Just Right, it’s not hard to imagine how things unravel after Jonathan attempts to kiss Kylie, who, in reality, is not his girlfriend.
Even though Jonathan fumbles with the lines between reality and fiction, Brooks had an easier time managing his alternate worlds.
“It wasn’t hard for me to keep track of the worlds, since only two of them are similar. The other worlds contain an alien war and a smokin’ hot dance club, neither of which contain Kylie,” said Brooks. “Jonathan and Kylie were the same in both worlds, except for the subtle ways that being in or not being in a relationship changed them.”
As the mastermind behind the worlds and the novel, Brooks went on quite the journey with her debut. Although she admits she can’t pin down the exact moment inspiration struck – she remembers the idea that started it all.
“I knew I wanted to write about a kid on the track team. I had this vision of a night ride home on the bus after a meet. As both a former runner and a coach, I always liked those rides the best—the results of the competition known, the new personal bests set, the energy or the exhaustion of the kids on the bus.”
But that’s not all.
“I had some idea that the story would be a thriller with government agents trying to get to Jonathan for top secret purposes,” said Brooks.
That’s certainly a different tale than the one we see in In a World Just Right but the divergence created a story and character that most everyone can relate to – a story about a boy with powers who just wants to be happy.
Jonathan just happens to have a leg up and have the ability to literally create and change worlds – a daunting and overwhelming ability.
“If I truly had Jonathan’s power,” said Brooks, “there are plenty of things I would change about our world, maybe even about human nature itself. I’d have to think very carefully before making those kinds of changes, though.”