We are thrilled to reveal the cover of When I am Through With You, Stephanie Kuehn’s smart, dark, and twisty novel.
About the book:
“This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.”
Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.
When I Am Through With You is a gripping story of survival and the razor’s-edge difference between perfect cruelty and perfect love.
See the striking cover, read Stephanie’s inspiration for the cover and for the novel, and read an excerpt!
Of gimlet-eyed girls and boys infirm of purpose
When people ask me what this book is about, I’ve gotten used to saying, “it’s kind of Deliverance meets They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” That could be interpreted in a lot of ways, I realize, so what I really mean is this: It’s a book about survival. It’s also a book about dying.
My husband and I went to see Macbeth last winter. Well, we actually went to see Lady Macbeth, who was being played by Frances McDormand. It was raining that night and as we huddled in the lobby before the show, I asked my husband why it was so many stories featured men who seek ascendancy through murder. Of course, the motive in Macbeth is clear: Kill the king, wear the crown. But what of stories like Deliverance, where a spiritually empty city man is thrown into a kill-or-be-killed survival situation and in taking the life of another, is reconnected with some deeper, more authentic part of himself? The mind and body are rejoined in ways he didn’t know were possible, and he is saved from the abyss. Indeed, he is delivered.
But this visceral path toward awakening is so rarely a woman’s story. Much less a young woman or a girl, whose mortal choices are almost always condemned, not honored as rites of passage. That girl won’t see herself in the pages of Deliverance. Or even Old Yeller. And while it’s true that women kill—out of revenge or desperation or sometimes just plain cunning—we aren’t taught that violence might actually be the catalyst for finding ourselves. Our salvation. Carl Jung wrote about the maternal archetype and its place in our collective unconscious, and that’s where we’ve always been told our power lies: in creating life, not taking it.
When I Am Through With You is the story of Ben and Rose. Ben, a guarded and love-starved boy, isn’t sure of much, but in Rose he sees the archetype of all he’s never had: a future fertile with hope. Rose is likewise drawn to Ben, despite—or maybe because of—his timid and submissive nature. And why not? She knows gender dichotomies are bullshit. In fact, one of the first things Rose tells Ben is how much she dislikes Lord of the Flies, a book she claims “gives boys an excuse to be assholes when it suits them.”
To be fair, Ben spends most of the book trying not to be an asshole. He’s earnest and gentle. He loves his Rose. And what he wants, more than anything, is to save his friends from the dangerous situation they’ve gotten themselves into while backpacking in the remote Trinity Alps. But it’s Rose who is at the heart of all his choices. And it’s Rose—who is no Lady Macbeth—who must define for herself what salvation looks like and whether anything good can ever come from giving boys an excuse to be assholes when it suits her.
And that is a complicated story, indeed.
An excerpt from When I Am Through With You
I’m not sure what else to say about Rose. If you know me at all, then I doubt that’s surprising. I suppose I could tell you more about how we got to know each other. How she took me to the inn that afternoon, where we sat outside in the shade of the redwood trees, and I told her how much I liked her shoes—they were made of this bright camel-brown leather and were shinier than anything I’d ever seen. Rose smiled when I said this, pleasing me that I’d pleased her. Plus, she was pretty like her shoes—shiny and rare and right in front of me; I was entranced, watching feverishly as her lips moved and her legs crossed while she rambled on about life with her French-Peruvian parents and dour-faced twin brother, who, she hinted, in a provocative voice, had serious issues of some mysterious nature.
I could tell you how she pined daily for the city she’d left behind. The people. The music. The food. The culture. Being able to see a first-run movie every now and then. Owning the inn might’ve been her parents’ dream, but Rose thought for sure she was going to leave this place someday. The town of Teyber was just a way station on her march to Somewhere, and I supposed I was, too. Rose had plans for college. Graduate school. To be special. Be the best. That’s one way we were different. From my vantage point, there was no hope for escape; I’d reached my zenith, a dim, low-slung, fatherless arc, and had long stopped believing in more.
I could also tell you how, in the two years we dated, Rose was my first everything. First kiss, first touch, first girl to see me naked and lustful without bursting into laughter (although she was the first to do that, too). We did more eventually. We did everything. Whatever she wanted. Rose dictated the rhyme and rhythm of our sexual awakening, and I loved that. I never had to make up my mind when I was with her.
By the way, I have no problem admitting I was nervous as hell the first time we actually did it—both of us offering up our so-called innocence during an awkward Thanksgiving Day fumbling that happened on the floor of the locked linen closet at the inn. For an awful moment, right before, as I hovered above her on the very edge of a promise, I feared I wouldn’t be able to—my ambivalence runs deep—but Rose stayed calm. In her steady, guiding voice, she told me what to do and just how to do it. I was eager to listen. I was eager to be what she needed.
I don’t know. There’s more to say, of course, much more. Two years is a long time in a short life, especially when you’re in high school. But that’s not the Rose anybody wants to read about, is it? Tragedy is infinitely more interesting than bliss. That’s the allure of self-destruction. Or so I’ve found.
But I’ll end with this: I miss Rose. I’m even glad I met her, despite what happened on that mountain. There were bad parts, yes; if I had my own days of darkness and suffering and pain-imposed sensory deprivation on account of my headaches, then in between her moments of verve and brashness, Rose had her own kind of darkness—bleak and savage, like a circling wildcat waiting to eat her up. What she needed during those times was for me to keep her alive, and for two years, that’s exactly what I did. And whether I did it by making her laugh or making her come or shielding her from her fears of tomorrow by giving her all my todays, I did it because she told me to and because I loved her. Truly.
So why’d I kill her?