CHALLENGER

Genre: MG Contemporary Fantasy

Status: Brainstorming / Drafting

After attempting suicide, as a result of intense bullying by the girls in her grade, twelve-year-old Destiny moves with her mom to the odd Southern town where her mom grew up for a fresh start. At first, making friends proves difficult. Not to mention, everyone in the small town seems to know her business. But then Destiny finds a kindred spirit in Leyla, a fellow seventh-grader who shares her love for Challenger, a massively multiplayer online RPG where players quest to rescue an imprisoned princess. The two girls become fast friends, but their friendship faces the ultimate test when Leyla doesn’t log on one afternoon and Destiny uncovers a truth darker than she could imagine.

For Leyla is actually prisoner herself, held captive by an evil witch who stole her as a baby to fulfill a debt owed by her parents. And now, on the eve of Leyla’s twelfth birthday, the witch has locked her away in a far away castle, just as the witch has done with many before. To save Leyla, Destiny with the help of Rob, a boy who’s afraid of everything, and Angie, the youngest in a large family who’s used to being ignored, follows the witch to the Otherworld–a fantasy world much like that of Challenger where Destiny must become the valiant knight she often plays. Only this time the stakes are much higher, the princess is Leyla, and the witch is both the villain and the storyteller shaping the world. Along the way, the three companions befriend others imprisoned in the Otherworld and realize that winning takes not only defeating the witch, but finding a way to take charge of their own story.

  • I’m a big fan of MMORPGs & RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, Skyrim, the Witcher and portal fantasies so I thought why not combine the two *grins*
  • CHALLENGER explores friendships, first love (between two queer girls of color!), and mental illness.
  • It has Rapunzel-vibes (as well as a smattering of other fairy tale favs).
  • Yes, there is a happy ending.
  • Suicide in MG… tough, I know. But my 13yo girl self who had been bullied and was suicidal and loved knight & princess fantasies and RPGs needed this story. Middle school girls go through some very intense stuff and mental health is rarely addressed in the literature they read. The story begins after Destiny’s attempted suicide. She was bullied because she came out as gay, but this isn’t a coming out story. The focus is more about her learning to loving herself, exploring those first crush feelings, making friends, and finding her place in the world.
  • I didn’t choose the name Destiny to be cheesy, although that works too haha. It was actually the name of the girl who bullied me and caused me to switch schools when I was younger. Why I chose that name for my MC, I have no idea. I often think “my Destiny” had demons of her own she was struggling to face and as a result took it out on me. Or rather, that’s how I’ve made peace with things. I suppose, in some ways, this could’ve be the story she needed too.
  • View the inspirational Pinterest board 🙂