"On the face of it, the book is centered around twin teenage sisters, Kennedy and Carter, and their past, the 1990s (and the attention to 90s details from the clothes, flannel, to the music, grunge, is just delicious), the men they were involved with—and do note they are men, not boys—the murder of their friend Haley, and Kennedy's subsequent jailing for the murder, despite having no memory of the night in question.
"little threats is also about Kennedy’s 2008 release into a world so very different from which she left. A world where music is downloaded, the presence of smart phones permeate our every moment, and where she is no longer a girl, but a woman who has to restart her life and untangle the ever present reverberations associated with a murder that may remain unsolved.
"But it’s about more than that as well.
"For many years I worked at Prevent Child Abuse America and spent countless hours trying to craft the most effective ways to write (and talk) about the work of prevention that would not only engage and educate the public, but move them to action. When the Jerry Sandusky story broke at Penn State I wrote about the case in a variety of ways, focusing on the roles of adults in the lives of children, recognizing signs of abuse, grooming, articulating the policies that needed to be enacted, identifying the groups who could offer support and guidance, and at some point my mother asked me as a former athlete whether any of my coaches had ever abused me in any way.
"They hadn't, and I didn’t know of any cases where anyone I knew had been abused, but I wondered whether they existed. Especially in terms of the female athletes I grew up with. I contacted an old teammate I was close with back then and asked her if she remembered any stories like this. She laughed politely, of course she did, and went on to tell me about a young, though adult, assistant coach at our high school who I didn't know, who assaulted young women I did know.
"Please note, my friend didn't actually describe these actions as assault, she described them as sex. They were assaults though.
"Language is important.
"Either way, I didn't know about it, it was a secret and I couldn’t have been more clueless.
"I have found though over the subsequent years that most men and women my age, middle-age that is, know of stories like this. But they rarely think about them in terms of assault. It was a thing that happened and most seem to accept that’s the way it was when we were teenagers.
Their response is related to the reasons we tried so hard at Prevent Child Abuse America to educate the public about prevention. It's also about what we can bear as humans and how much we are able let ourselves absorb and accept as fact and reality.
"Why is that important here?
"Because thrillers count on all of these human traits and foibles to tell their stories. That there are always secrets and that people can find ways to justify some pretty horrible things. But they also test just how much the reader can bear. And what we experience in a book such as little threats, is that as we succumb to the story’s twists and turns, it turns out that we can bear quite a lot."