SC Resident Susan Beckham Zurenda Overlaps Teenage & Adult Challenges In Her Second Novel
Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
Noted short fiction writer and lifelong South Carolina native Susan Beckham Zurenda follows her 2020 award winning debut novel 'Bells For Eli', with an emotionally charged tale concerning the trials and tribulations teenagers face everyday, as well as the adults in their lives offering sage advice. 'The Girl From the Red Rose Motel' is a compelling 288 page story chronicling the lives of three individual, all intertwined at Ramsey High School.
Hazel 'Zell' Smalls has flown under the radar at Ramsey. She's quiet, has few friends, keeps to herself, and prefers to remain inconspicuous even in JROTC. With her family falling on tough times, Zell, her younger sister Chloe, and her parents are living modestly, finding residence in the less than desirable Red Rose Motel, with Zell helping out financially by cleaning rooms at the inn.
The one asset Zell has failed to recognize is the one boys notice almost immediately. She's strikingly beautiful.
Sterling Lovell on the other hand was born into privilege. His family is wealthy and members of a local country club. His story is as old as time. He's good looking, well liked, and dating Courtney, one of the most popular girls in high school, whose own father is the small town's influential religious leader. Among Sterling's father's real estate holdings is ownership of the Red Rose Motel.
Enter Angela Wilmore, a recently widowed 50-ish, stern but caring AP English teacher in her first year at Ramsey High. Unfamiliar with looking the other way and letting students slide Angela is a firm disciplinarian, sending Sterling to his first ever in school suspension (ISS).
However, were it not for ISS Zell and Sterling may have never crossed paths. He was stricken by her beauty and she was no doubt enamored by his fixation. Much to the chagrin of his guy friends, Courtney, and his parents Sterling begins seeing Zell. A good natured soul, Angela soon befriends the young couple, offering seasoned advice as warranted, even as she's trying to find her own footing in new work surroundings.
Although Zell is caught up in all the newness a relationship brings, she's careful to keep Sterling at a distance, not wanting her parent's misfortune to sour his attention. Can she keep her family secret hidden? How long will Sterling agree to keep meeting her at the local library? And if he did find out Zell's living on the wrong side of town would Sterling think less of her? When you're 17 years old and the lines between the haves and the have-nots are clearly drawn, young minds wonder.
While Sterling is still embracing the privileged life, Zell's is going from bad to worse, with only Angela as her true sounding board. On the outside looking in there are a handful of reasons Zell and Sterling shouldn't be together. His friends and his parents see it as a passing phase.
As his senior year is coming to an end Courtney is still holding out hope of re-uniting. With graduation nearing and college on Sterling's radar could the young couple survive a long distance relationship, and if Zell was completely honest with him would it change everything?
'The Girl From the Red Rose Motel' is an honest and heartwarming tale of how teenagers and adults interact in the same environment. Whether you're a student or a member of the faculty we all face struggles in our lives. It's the unlikely people who come to our rescue that help us rise above the challenges.
A career high school and college English teacher Susan Beckham Zurenda seemingly writes from personal experience. She fully understands how to develop characters and keep the plot flowing. Zurenda does a nice job of threading story lines of teenagers and adults wrapped in a bubble, all the while surrounded by outside influence and hypocrisy. 'The Girl From the Red Rose Motel' is a worthy read for teens and adults.
For more on the author visit her website at https://www.susanzurenda.com/