Garrett Janssen ’16 spent more than a year crafting a coming-of-age novel for his English Honors thesis. Currently a third of the way completed, the novel, “A Line in the Sand,” takes a unique approach to the genre, exploring the cultural and societal struggles of adolescents through the perspective of two popular teens.
“So much material in that genre is told from the perspective of the outcast,” explains Janssen, who graduated cum laude in economics. “Whereas the popular crowd gets a label smacked on them, they don’t have a voice in movies and novels. They lose a bit of their humanity because they’re constantly judged by their classmates.”
The plot centers on two characters, Dylan Colby and Raine Stratton, who have “ideal” social lives but still struggle. Through the characters, Janssen explores the topics of alcohol abuse, the complexities of single-parenting, the significance of sex in a hypersexualized culture, and the perception of therapy. As Dylan and Raine work through adult problems, part of their journey lies in finding the language, and their own voice, to navigate complex issues.
“What’s interesting about the protagonists is that they straddle both worlds, both roles – outcast and fray – in the narrative, especially psychologically. This creates a compelling tension that sometimes pulses, sometimes roils, beneath the narrative. These aren’t characters just searching for their frontal lobes.” says Visiting Associate Professor of English Vinita Prabhakar, who served as Janssen’s Honors adviser.
Janssen hopes to publish the novel and provide readers with a fresh experience. “I’m not interested in likeable characters. I’m interested in compelling characters. This is a character-driven novel, which means relaying it honestly and without judgment,” he says.
The experience was instrumental in advancing his writing skills and preparing him for the future. The process of planning, executing, and revising a novel, explains Janssen, “transfers to almost any long-term business plan.” Janssen continues to write while pursuing a career in advertising.
On campus, Janssen minored in English, and media and society. He was a Writing Colleague and a member of the “We the Unheard” student organization.