With 13 years of teaching experience, Severna Park High School math teacher Julie Lowman has met some interesting characters. In her first novel shared with the public, Lowman used her knowledge about how teens act, react and speak to one another to create astonishingly realistic characters in “The Intensity of You,” a young adult novel that addresses the prevalence and consequences of unhealthy relationships.
“The One Love campaign was introduced into our school a couple of years ago. There are signs all over the school about it,” Lowman said. “When I wanted to write a book, I needed a compelling plot. The campaign really spoke to me. I have had friends and family in unhealthy relationships and I know this is something that many people will encounter.”
Lowman’s story is about a girl named Sydney who was in a relationship that was in the gray area. The boy never physically hurt her, but he manipulated and scared her.
“Those things are unacceptable, even if they are hard to verbalize to someone,” Lowman said. “When I was writing about the boyfriend’s actions, I was careful to make his actions and words clearly bad when it was happening, [but] it would be hard for Sydney to repeat what happened and make people understand.”
Lowman has seen people of all ages in her personal and professional lives make bad choices in relationships. As an educator, Lowman feels that sometimes teenagers think they are the first to ever deal with specific issues, not knowing that bad relationships have happened since the beginning of time.
“When people make bad relationship decisions, it often stems from a misinformed feeling of their self-worth,” Lowman said. “They think they deserve what they get, or they shouldn’t ask for more. I hope that everyone realizes how much they are worth and holds themselves in high regards. That is the best way to avoid being treated poorly.”
Lowman said one of the main reasons she is a high school teacher, and why she decided to pen a young-adult novel, is because she is fascinated by teenagers, the way they think and the decisions they make.
“I hope readers take away the idea that anyone can be in a bad relationship, even people who have a lot of other things going for them,” Lowman said. “I also hope they see that relationships aren’t all good or all bad and someone who makes you happy can also hurt you. From the beginning of the novel, it’s obvious to the reader that Sydney is in a bad relationship. However, she doesn’t see it. I hope that people can realize that when someone is in a bad relationship, they may not know or want to know.”
The mental health of teens is a constant topic of concern and focus for Severna Park residents for the last two decades. Lowman’s students are always her first priority.
“My first thoughts are always the mental health of my students. Teenagers deal with a lot, often in adult situations without the benefit of adult experiences,” Lowman said. “I hope the book shows that anyone can be in a bad situation and that there are people that can help. In Sydney’s case, it was her older brother and her coach. Hopefully, the reader can see that these people care about her a lot and would help her.
“I want to make sure my students know I care. After the tragedy this year, I stood in front of my classes and told them I loved them and that I would always care about them,” Lowman said, referring to the suicide of a Severna Park High School student in March. “Looking at all of their faces, I started to cry. No one said anything at the time, but later, a student emailed me and thanked me for caring.”
Lowman said she’s adamant about noticing student behavior, and if she sees someone having a bad day, she’s deliberate about asking if they are all right.
“My favorite quote is from Rita Pierson: ‘Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best they can possibly be,’” Lowman said. “I want to be that champion.”
The One Love Foundation estimates that more than one in three women and nearly one in four men will be in an abusive relationship during their lifetime. The foundation was formed to help young people recognize and understand domestic violence, especially relationship violence, following the death of Yeardley Love in May 2010 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Love was a University of Virginia women’s lacrosse student-athlete who was killed by her boyfriend at the time, a fellow UVA men’s lacrosse player. Love wore No. 1 while playing lacrosse for the University of Virginia, a number that her team retired. For more information about the One Love Foundation, visit www.joinonelove.org.
“The Intensity of You” is available for free online at www.swoonreads.com/m/the-intensity-of-you.