Saturday, January 7, 2012

If I Die Young by Talia Jager - Character Interview, Guest Post, Excerpt

Young Adult - Fiction

When Caelyn Noel was diagnosed with asthma five years ago, it put a damper on things. Now, she’s sixteen and things are finally going her way. She has loving parents, the best friend ever, and the boy she has had a crush on since elementary school has finally noticed her. Then, she collapses in school one day. To her horror, she finds out her heart is failing and she must have a heart transplant to live. Caelyn struggles with her fear of dying and worries of having someone else’s heart.

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The days melted together. They seemed to drag, but most of the time I just slept, so I was unaware of what day it was anymore. Soon, I found myself having more trouble talking. I couldn’t get more than a word or two out before getting out of breath. It took forever for me just to say one sentence. I felt weak and tired. I slept most of the time. I could almost feel death hovering around me. I didn't think I had it in me to fight it off much longer.
The nurses would come in every couple of hours and turn me from one side to the other. There were times I didn’t even wake up when they did it. I asked why once and they told me, “It’s to avoid bed sores.” Great. One more thing to worry about.
I was switched from the nasal cannula to the mask and still every breath I took was heavy. I knew things were getting worse when sadness loomed in Remy's eyes even when she smiled.
My parents and Lindsay were in the room when Dr. Leo and Remy came in one afternoon. I shifted my gaze over to them. I couldn’t even move my head. They looked glum. “Caelyn, your oxygen levels are getting dangerously low, you are tired and having a lot of difficulty breathing. I’d like to put you on the ventilator.”
“No.” I shook my head. Fear gripped my body. A ventilator was a machine that breathed for you. I didn’t want to be on one of those! I was afraid once I was on one I’d never get off again. And then I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye.
“Caelyn, I know it’s a hard decision. I know it’s not something that a young girl like you wants to be on. But, it will help you. It will breathe for you and your body can rest. It will buy us a little more time.”
I could feel the tears running down my face, but I was too tired to wipe them away. I closed my eyes for just a second. “Caelyn, honey, this will help you,” Mom said. I just shook my head. I didn’t want to be on one! Why couldn’t they understand that? It would be giving up, giving in, and letting the machines take over. It would be the end of me.
“Caelyn.” I heard Lindsay and opened my eyes. “You need to be on it. Don’t fight this. We want you to live. Think about how nice it would be to let something breathe for you while you rest. It would be easier than working at it all day. Please, Caelyn…I don’t want to lose you.”
I sighed looking at her and my parents. Maybe I should do it for them? To show them I tried everything I could. Maybe it would better so that when I died, they would feel as if they had done everything. As if I had done everything. “Okay…” I whispered giving in. “Need…to say…goodbye…first.”
Dr. Leo nodded and said, “We’ll give you ten minutes.” He left the room with Remy.
“What do you mean goodbye?” Lindsay asked, her voice raising a notch. “We are not doing goodbye.”
It took all my strength to put my hand on hers. “I love you,” I told her.
Tears flowed down her face. “NO! Caelyn, you are NOT dying!” She yanked her hand away and started backing away.
Mom walked up to Lindsay and swept the hair out of her face. “It’s okay, Sweetie.” She hugged her. “If she needs to do this to let us put her on the ventilator, let her do it. Saying goodbye does not mean giving up. We’re not giving up!”
Lindsay looked back and forth between my mother and me and finally nodded. “Okay, okay.” She took my hand again. “Caelyn, you are my best friend. I have no plans on letting you die. But, if you do…” She choked back tears. “If you do, I will always remember you. You will forever be a part of me. I love you too.” I smiled. “I’m going to go out in the hall for a few minutes…” She kissed my cheek and hurried out the door.
Mom and Dad both got real close to me. “That goes for us too. We aren’t letting you die. But, your body needs to rest. Let the doctors do what they need to,” Dad said, taking my hand. “I love you so much, Caelyn. You’re the light of my life.” He smiled. “The day you were born, you had me wrapped around your little finger.” He smiled as tears ran down his face too. 
“I love you…Dad.”
Mom took my hand next. “And what a beautiful day that was…the day you were born, so sunny and perfect. And you made your dad and me the happiest people in the world that day. Such a beautiful little girl and now a beautiful young lady. Don’t give up, Caelyn. Not yet.”
I squeezed her hand as hard as I could. I needed them to hear me. “Don’t…let…the…machines…keep me…alive…forever,” I told them. I didn’t want that. A little while was one thing, but I didn’t want to be dependent on them forever.
Mom started crying, her makeup smeared now. “I won’t.”

with Caelyn Noel from If I Die Young

What songs are most played on your iPod?

Fallin' For You by Colbie Caillat, You Got Me by Colbie Caillat, Skin by Rascal Flatts, What Hurts the Most by Rascal Flatts, Need You Now by Lady Antebellum, Then by Brad Paisley

What is your favorite meal?

Pancakes!! I love drenching them in rich, maple syrup. My mom makes the best pancakes ever.

Do you play any sports?

No, I've never been allowed to because of my health. Maybe now that I've had a transplant, I can finally do something. However, I have no idea what to try out for first.

What are you passionate about these days?

Educating people about transplants and being donors.

What makes you happy?

Besides the obvious (my friends and family), being able to walk to my classes without getting out of breath makes me very happy.  


Heart to Heart
 By Talia Jager

A transplant can save a life. We could be talking about heart, kidney, liver, even bone marrow. In If I Die Young, we meet Caelyn Noel, a normal teenager with asthma. She’s lived with it for years and knows how to deal with it. Until it becomes more than that. As symptoms persist and get worse, her mom takes her to the doctor where Caelyn finds out it’s not asthma, instead she has a heart problem. She’s put in the hospital and treated with medications and surgery. But, neither help enough and eventually she is put on the transplant list.

Caelyn is lucky and only has to wait a short amount of time for her transplant. The average waiting time is seven months, but as much as 40% of patients die waiting for a transplant.

This story is close to home for me. My family has had more than their fair share of heart problems. I, myself, had heart surgery when I was just four years old. The doctors repaired a hole in my heart. This was the same surgery my uncle, cousin, and later on my daughter had. As years went by, many of my family members were diagnosed with different types of heart problems. One of my cousins even collapsed his senior year of high school, thankfully, he was revived.

Within the past few years, one of my uncles and my cousin passed away from complications with heart surgery. It’s scary to know that a family member less than two years older than you died from heart problems. He left behind a wife and two kids. What would happen to my husband and five kids if that happened to me?

His father’s, my uncle’s, health deteriorated after his death and he had to be admitted to a hospital in Boston and put on a transplant list. He only had to wait a couple of months before getting the call and receiving a new heart. What a blessing for my family! As happy as we were for our family, I was sad for their family. The donor family was going through a devastating ordeal and here we were rejoicing. Didn’t seem fair. They gave us such a gift. One that will never be forgotten.

I actually wrote If I Die Young before my cousin died, but I didn’t publish it until 2011, a few months before my uncle’s transplant. I didn’t know if he’d live or die, but it was a story I needed to tell.

Enter for a chance to win a Smashwords Coupon code for a free download of If I Die Young.
If there are 10 or more reader comments a second winner will be chosen. 
Follow Talia on Twitter for a bonus entry.
Giveaway ends Jan. 21 11:59 PM Central Time.


My name is Talia Jager and I am an author. My passion is to write young adult books. I have been writing... well, forever. I can't remember a time when I wasn't carrying around a notebook or thinking up stories in my head.

I distinctly remember in high school hiding my writing notebook under my class work and writing during class - teacher thought I was taking notes. And at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I'd be hiding under the covers with a notebook, pen, and flashlight.

Now, as an adult, I have a laptop that I do most of my writing on. However, I do have a notebook in the car, and another in my bedroom, just in case I come up with a great story idea when I'm not in front of the computer.

Besides writing, I love to read.  Getting lost in another world is an awesome feeling. I also like to play games (both video and board), scrapbook, rollerblade, and travel. Most of all I love to spend time with my family. I am happily married to a wonderful man who supports my writing. We have five beautiful girls who bring me happiness every day.

Profile update:

Talia Jager spends most of her time writing in the bathroom with a steady supply of chocolate, counting the days until her hormonal teenage daughter leaves for college...



lastnerve said...

This looks like a really good book, I can't wait to read it.

Val Pearson
lastnerve2000 at

Kelley said...

Thank you for the giveaway! The writeup made it sound like an amazing story, along I believe it sounds very sad as well. I am looking forward to reading it!

Ester Almeida said...

Really nice giveaway!

Brandileigh2003 (Blkosiner's Book Blog) said...

This sounds like my kind of read! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic job here. I definitely enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you absolutely bring a new voice to this subject. Not many people would say what youve said and still make it interesting. Well, at least Im interested. Cant wait to see more of this from you.

Inspired Kathy said...

Thanks for the chance!