Is there a line between gifted and insane? How do you know when you’ve crossed it?
Tess’s grandmother sees the future in her coffee grounds. Tess’s mother cycles in and out of mental institutions. As for Tess, she’s clinging to normal – as tight as she can. Her mom’s unpredictable behavior means Tess and her father can never trust the ‘good spells,’ (like the time her mom spontaneously bought a ping pong table for their already-cramped apartment,) because they always turn into ‘bad spells,’ (like the time her mom stepped off the curb into oncoming traffic.) High school, meanwhile, is an extended exercise in teenage loserdom Tess and her best (and only) friend Tabitha must navigate while incurring as little physical and psychic trauma possible. And the love of Tess’s life, Jake, whose neck probably smells like warm cookies and world peace, (not that Tess has ever gotten close enough to know) is at best marginally aware of her existence. Tess lives for summers floating on the lake at her grandmother’s mountain cabin, weekends watching Sixteen Candles with Tabitha, and the hope that someday Jake will realize she is his true soulmate (or at least learn her name). The rest of her energy goes into avoiding uncomfortable questions about life, such as: What is the real nature of her mother’s illness? Are she and Tabitha just friends out of necessity and habit? And, most troublingly, what is the meaning of the dream-like visions that leave her sweaty, shaking, and sick to her stomach with dread?
Then one of her visions comes true, rocking Tess’s world with loss, and she can no longer ignore her powers – if that’s what they are. When Tess is implicated in the tragedy, she must come to terms with her guilt over what happened and decide if her dreams are proof of a prophetic gift, or symptoms of the same illness that is stealing her mother.
Set in the concrete reality of Manhattan’s Nuts4Nuts carts, Starbucks-addicted private school princesses, pick-up basketball games, Central Park reservoir track workouts, NYU frat boys, and Gray’s Papaya hot dog shops, yet alive to the possibility of magic everywhere, IF YOU WERE HERE explores the mystical, metaphysical question of what it means to feel different than everyone else.
Jennie Yabroff is a writer and journalist currently living in Rome, Italy, with her family. Her permanent address is in New York City, where she writes essays, criticism, and novels. Jennie was born in Berkeley, California, and received her MFA in Writing from Columbia University. For several years she was a staff writer for Newsweek magazine, and has written for lots of other places as well.