Title: THE FREEDOM CLUB
Author: Cindy Vine
“We could be anybody and everybody. A group of high school stereotypes with one thing in common. Every one of us has a story.”
Every high school has the bullies, the freaks, and the weird kids that make you feel uneasy. Rourke High has more than their fair share. A few months before the end of their senior year, a group of seemingly mismatched kids get together to form The Freedom Club, hoping that they can support the victims of bullying, before they graduate. As they uncover secrets and lies they plot revenge – and discover love, friendship and truths about themselves, building up to a shocking climax that will leave you reeling.
Do you ever really know the person next to you?
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About the Author
Cindy Vine was born in South Africa and has lived and worked in many different countries as a teacher. Cindy is currently living and working in Norway. She has three adult children who have all inherited her love of traveling and who all live in different countries. Cindy likes to write about the difficult subjects that make you think. Besides writing and traveling, Cindy loves cooking and fixing up houses.
Her latest book is the YA, The Freedom Club.
WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:
Chapter 1 Maddie
In Grade 5 my class teacher assigned us all a task. We had to keep a Thought Journal for a period of three weeks. In the notebook she provided, we had to record anything we saw or heard, random things we thought about, newspaper clippings, magazine articles – basically anything that was of interest to us. The object of the task was to have group discussions at the end of the three weeks about the issues that we felt strongly about. The teacher believed that our Thought Journals would help us identify those issues. Once we had discussed them in our groups, we would then be able to decide which issues we had in common and which were the most important to us all. The next step would be to research the important issues we had identified as a group, then put together a presentation which we would show our parents one evening after school.
It sounds good in theory, right? The problem was only a few of us took the Thought Journals seriously. Writing down some very random thoughts the night before the due date defeated the whole object of the exercise. I had never been a ‘Dear Diary’ type of girl, although I had always loved to write. Diaries with little locks on, given to me as presents on birthdays and Christmas, have always remained unopened and untouched amongst other junk in the bottom drawer of my dresser. There was something about them that seemed both frivolous and soppy. I’m sure people who kept diaries didn’t really start each entry with ‘Dear Diary’, but in my mind they did and that’s what made it seem all a little pathetic.
But even though a Thought Journal did the same thing as a diary, it felt different somehow. Thought Journal sounded more serious, more intellectual than a silly diary. Recording my thoughts made me feel important, as if my thoughts really mattered. A notebook instead of a pink hard cover diary with flowers, bows and a lock, made me feel as if I was above silly thoughts about boys I liked and girlie gossip. The notebook made me feel as if I had something important to say and that if the world ended, then the next inhabitants of Earth would find my Thought Journals and know what it was like when I lived. Well, that’s what I thought when I was in Grade 5. Now I’m in my senior year of High School and my Thought Journal is all that keeps me alive.
Chapter 2 Arek
The sirens and flashing blue lights brought everybody outside. There is something about someone else’s drama that attracts fellow humans, rather like flies to a pile of dung. Or bees to a can of soda. How many people stop to look at a bad car accident? It’s not because they want to help. It’s because they want to see. People want to be grossed out. They want to see torn-off limbs propped up next to a car tire. They want to see that body covered in blood and shards of glass. They want to exclaim and gag and gasp at the horror of it all. People are drama queens and that’s no lie.
Hot on the heels of the first responders and emergency services are the press. News vans, cameramen and reporters with over-sized mikes. Desperate to display people’s misery for the world to see. Shoving mikes in bystanders ́ faces – “What did you see? What did you hear? What do you know about the victim?” And of course the unspoken question, “What little bit of shitty gossip can you share about the victim?” And so the victim of a particular disaster is stripped of everything. Nothing is too sacred or too private not to be shared with the vultures eagerly gulping down every tidbit of information. The worst though, are the people who come forward pretending to have known the victim, making up the anecdotes they share on the fly.
It’s almost worth living just to hear the shit they share. Lie after lie. Relating false memories in a sort of parallel universe. Creating their own reality. Pity none of it is true. Fake news, maybe there’s something in that after all.
And so, as Todd ́s gurney holding his body bag is rolled into the waiting ambulance, you can hear the collective sighs of the onlookers. “If only we’d known. If only he’d told us he was depressed we would have helped him. If only he had said he was planning on hanging himself in the bedroom we would have been there for him.”
If only you actually gave a shit.
If only those fake tears rolling down your cheeks
If only you had made the time to actually know
Another teen lost to suicide.
Another family heartbroken and emotionally
Kids at our high school will try and picture what he
looked like and share reminiscences that are actually of somebody else. And those who should be held culpable will carry on as if nothing happened and even make suicide jokes.
Nobody will be held accountable.
No amount of casseroles and lasagnas dropped off at the grief-stricken family ́s home will bring Todd back. The community rallying around? What a joke! All
they want is to find out the gory details. Nothing is going to change. Nothing is ever going to change.
The crowd swells as more neighbors come to gawk. People start talking to neighbors they haven’t spoken to in years. There’s nothing like someone else’s drama to get communication going again.
I was standing behind Principal Timmins when he
turned to an officer and I heard him say, “Thank goodness he only committed suicide and didn’t go gun ́crazy at school. At least it’s just him and not a whole lot of others.”
We wouldn’t want our school to look bad, would we? Good to hear our esteemed principal really cares
about us kids. I moved away before the officer had time to reply to Timmins’s insensitive comment. I always thought Timmins was a dick. Great to know what I thought has been confirmed.
Todd wasn’t my friend and I’m not going to pretend he was. But he was more than just an acquaintance. He always aspired to be one of the Cool Kids, which meant he ignored me at school. But as we lived in the same street, we often walked home together and Todd would try and impress me with the things he got up to with the Cool Kids. So I knew quite a bit about what was going on in his life. I also knew from things he said that he didn’t quite fit in, no matter how hard he tried. What I could never have foreseen, was that he would end up killing himself. Something bad must have happened to make him think that life wasn’t worth living. My gut feeling, is that the Cool Kids are somehow involved.
As I walk away from the crowd and head home to dinner, I mull over in my mind the last conversations I had with Todd. Trying to find clues in the things he had said. Looking for answers. Why kill yourself? What did they do to you?
There are days when I feel what’s the point of everything. Why bother getting out of bed just to go to school to pretend to learn when all you do is try to survive the day unscathed. But even though I often think life is pointless, I’m not sure I’d ever go to the extreme of killing myself. Why give them the satisfaction?
Living might be the only way to defeat them.
Then again, who knows and would they really care? And with that sobering thought, I open the front door to the house where we do not talk to each other.