USA Today Bestselling Author of The Young Adult Trilogy The Breathing Series
Who am I?
The Breathing Series
Reason to Breathe
Story behind the story
What They’re Saying
What They’re Saying
Out of Breath
What They’re Saying
Story Behind the Story
What They’re Saying
The Cursed Series
If I’d Known & Knowing You
Cursed Parts 1 & 2 Chapter by Chapter
If I’d Known – Story Behind the Story
If I’d Known – The Soundtrack
Knowing You – The Soundtrack
Knowing You – The Fairy Tale
Now We Know & What They Knew
Book Group Questions
The Letter – SPOILERS!
*There is Help*
Rebecca shares chapter-by-chapter insight –
The Cursed Series Parts 1 & 2
Follow along as you read or come back after you’ve finished. WARNING:CONTAINS SPOILERS
Part 1 | If I'd Known
Prologue & Chapter 1
Prologue & Chapter 1 | First Impressions
In the first pages of Part 1 – If I’d Known, we’re introduced to Lana Peri and her world. A world that isn’t kind. A world that forces her to take responsibility for not only herself, but her mother. Leaving her cynical and jaded. I knew when I created Lana I was taking the risk that you may not like her. She doesn’t come across as the nicest or happiest person at the beginning. But I was hoping you’d stick around long enough to wonder why. What was your first impression of Lana? What kind of first impression do you think you make?
Chapter 2 | The High School Experience
Unlike most teens, Lana has little regard for gossip or social hierarchy. And that aloof attitude has placed Tori and Lana on center stage to their peers, to the point of it being comical. It was my intention when writing the opening chapters to provide readers with a sense of Lana’s world and that it’s not that of a typical teenager. I give you a hint of why, but not enough to truly understand her disinterested demeanor or her belief in curses. And on a personal note, Lana and Tori’s access to bars at the age of fifteen was inspired by a manager I had in college while working at a sandwich shop. She would tell us stories about having a fake ID and getting into bars at fifteen. The secret, she told us, was all in the attitude. Act like you belong there, and they let you in. Her stories stayed with me, because I would never have had the courage to walk up to a doorman and demand entrance with an obviously fake license. Lana and Tori could…
Chapter 3 | Stella's
We get a hint of Lana’s caregiver relationship with her mom in the chapter, recognizing that they’re more of a team than mother-daughter, with the endgame being survival—do whatever is necessary to pay the bills. Which brings us to the dive bar dressed as a diner: Stella’s. Not the typical first job experience of a teenager. It’s another layer of thick skin Lana has to wield in order to get by in her world. My first job wasn’t nearly as traumatizing. I was a receptionist for an electrician for a summer. Answering phones. Typing (yes, with an actual typewriter), and a little bookkeeping – but mostly, I read. Haha!
Chapter 4 | House Party
When I heard Alessia Cara’s song Here, I saw Lana in the kitchen observing the mayhem at the house party in Oaklawn. And so when I edited this chapter, I allowed the song to inspire the scene. In this chapter, we witness how Lana interacts—or doesn’t—with others. But more so, how others see her – or at least how she feels she’s being perceived. I personally love house parties. It’s a little more intimate and usually there’s someone you know by some degree of separation from the person who invited you to attend. So no one’s really a stranger…or at least, that’s what I convince myself. And I’d be one of the girls trying to make dancing happen, definitely! But when I first started attending parties in high school, I was the wallflower, people watching. Little did they know, they would inspire characters in my stories.
Chapter 5 | Car Ride
During this chapter, we are introduced to the everyone in the car through Lana’s perspective. And they couldn’t be any more different: Nina, the bombshell fatale. Tori, the feisty, overprotective best friend. Lincoln, the nice guy who actually gives a damn. Vic, the psycho. And Joey, the enchanting flirt. Remember to draw your own conclusions about the players involved in this story – Lana may be our narrator, but she’s quick to judge. And a bit cynical. Knowing only what you know up to the end of week 1 – at this point in the story – who do you trust?
Chapter 6 | Tension
Lana witnesses a crime, and she knows who did it. Does she say something or keep quiet? That is the moral dilemma that she fights with throughout the story. And this is the first of many instances when she has to decide if silence is better than honesty. When I was teenager, I found it difficult to confide in others regarding my problems. They felt so huge that the only way to get through them was to do it alone. I had a couple best friends with whom I shared some things but not everything. The full truth only lived in my journals. It’s the place I felt safe with my emotions. With my fears. And my insecurities. We all wear a mask of silence at some point in our lives. If I were to give my fifteen-year-old self advice, I’d say: “Don’t discount your feelings as weak. Feel what you feel without shame. And you don’t have to hold it all in. There are people who love you and want to help you. Let them.”
Chapter 7 | Enchanted
Joey and Lana have instant chemistry. It’s like they can’t resist each other – almost instantly. But their world-disappears-around-them attraction doesn’t sit well with Lana’s best friends. Tori makes a point to interrupt their enchantment at every opportunity. Throughout this story, you’re going to encounter references to fairytales. Some subtle, others more blatant. I chose to describe the sparks between Lana and Joey like she’s under a spell when they’re together. She loses herself to their connection, and everything around them disappears – the people in the car, the drama with Vic, the dancers on the dance floor. It’s one thing to be drawn to someone. It’s another to become someone you’re not in their presence. Which is what Tori and Nina witness – and Lana admittedly notes that this isn’t her, she never acts like this. But then again, she’s always lived within impenetrable walls.
Chapter 8 | Witness
Lana doesn’t do helpless well. She likes to be in control. And if she isn’t, she fights to gain it. But under the influence of alcohol and drugs, her mind betrays her – a whirling mess of feelings and thoughts. To capture her reaction properly, I rewrote the stairwell scene over again at least three times. I wanted to show Lana’s humanity, but not send her into hysterics, while remembering she’s drunk and on Mollie. Yes, I did research on the ill effects of Mollie. Under stress, panic is heightened. Which is what I wove into her experience in the elevator. This moment was an opportunity to unveil Lana’s capability for compassion, and that she’s not just hard edges and sarcasm. But I also wanted to display her strength in a crisis, despite her altered state.
Chapter 9 | The Worst of All Lies
Lana grew up in a house full of women who had varying views of love and men. At the introduction of each chapter, I provide a glimpse of formative scenes in Lana’s life that influence who she becomes and the opinions she forms based on the moral guidance of her grandmother and witnessing her mother’s despair. Our beliefs are often formed by the experiences we have in our youth, combined with the beliefs or actions of the people who raise us. We may find ourselves taking on similar attributes and beliefs , or using their example as what we refuse to become. Lana takes hold of these influences, along with the lessons woven into the fairytales her grandmother would read to her and refuses to believe love exists beyond wishful thinking. During a moment of passion, Joey mindlessly utters those three words, driving Lana away. To her, they are a testament of distrust. The lie of all lies. The words of destruction. This theme runs throughout the story.
Chapter 10 | Keep Your Mouth Shut
Despite everything, Lana is forced to face the consequences for something she didn’t do. She is given the opportunity to snitch to save herself, but she has no idea what that will do to her friends. And at fifteen, Lana doesn’t trust anyone, especially adults, to do what’s best for her. She feels she can only rely on herself and her silence. As we’re preparing to go into Part 2, Knowing You, we leave Lana in police custody. And from her reaction, this isn’t the first time she’s been arrested. But the twist is the lawyer who walks in the room at the end is Niall Harrison, Joey and Parker’s father. And that he knows Lana’s mother. There’s a lot more at play here than just the worst night of Lana’s life.
Part 2 | Knowing You
Chapter 1 | So Many Questions
Part 2, Knowing You, opens with Lana in juvie. And we come to find out that it’s not her first time inside. We’re starting to get to know Lana a little better – what made her the way she is. But there are so many more questions than answers. This is the perfect time to ask you to pay attention to Lana’s timeline. Notice when everything started changing, for the worse, in her life. She notes here that the first time she was arrested was two years ago. Among the other things we know so far – her grandmother died around that time and she had to start working to help pay the bills. That’s also when she met Parker. And something interesting we discover at the end of Part 1 – Niall Harrison and her mother know each other.
Chapter 2 | Away from Home
Lana has been sentenced to attend a boarding school instead of juvie for the foreseeable six months. This will be the first time Lana has left the town she was raised in and the friends she’s had most of her life. Lana’s vulnerability shines through as she drives away from Sherling. Sometimes what we know, even if it’s not good for us, provides a security that keeps us from leaving and going to a place unknown. “This is What Makes Us Girls” by Lana Del Rey heavily influenced Lana’s personality and that of Tori and Nina. I was intrigued by these beautiful girls who were living life a little too fast, getting into trouble but having fun doing it. There was something about their bond and playfulness while living on the edge that intrigued me. You will find that the song is woven into this chapter more than any other as tribute to its influence, and the artist who Lana is named after.
Chapter 3 | Wonderland
This is the perfect chapter to introduce the fairytale themes woven throughout the story. Peri means “fallen fairy." Faye is named after fae/faeries. Joseph William Harrison is named after the current English royalty. Blackwood means Black Forest in Germany–the setting for many Grimm stories. Printz-Lee Academy: aka Princely. Sherling: Sherwood Forest. Dr. Kendall's described similarly to the Queen of Hearts–think of her black and white office as a deck of cards. The Court's inspired by many stories that have a maze within their pages, from Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter to The Shining: very symbolic of the charters’ journey. And there are so many more to come… I grew up on fairytales. Storytelling's been a part of me since I can remember. The Wizard of Oz was the first story I can remember reading. It was a condensed version for kids. I would play act in the woods and believe I could talk to animals. Wishes were a daily occurrence in my life. And obviously, I still love to get lost in stories.
Chapter 4 | Why Are You Here?
Lana already knows she doesn’t belong at Blackwood. Not just because she’s not wealthy and her family isn’t notable, but because she didn’t do anything wrong other than protect her friends. The question, “Why this school?” comes up more than once throughout the story – and the first one to ask it is Brendan. His dramatic appearance puts Lana on edge immediately. Brendan knows who Lana is and that she doesn’t belong at Blackwood. He puts Lana on guard the second he speaks to her. Brendan is arrogant and conniving, and Lana feels a connection despite recognizing he’s dangerous. I enjoyed writing this scene between them. Their snarky banter that begins here and continues throughout the series was fun to play with – they have an interesting relationship built on distrust from the second they meet.
Chapter 5 | I Know
At the end of Chapter Four, Lana receives a message painted on her wall: “I Know.” And with the amount of secrets being kept, this could mean anything. At first, she suspects Brendan since he knows way too much about her before she even arrives. But he’s not the only one who knows her. We find Parker is also in Kingston with his cousin, Lily. Who knows what? That’s THE question. Inside info: I worked at a country club in college which I used to inspire the country club in Knowing You. I was assigned the bev cart girl multiple times over the summers – and it really is the best job to have at the club. The manager’s name was “Cary,” so I didn’t change a thing about him in the story – he’s still one of my favorite boss’s ever. And we may or may not have slipped alcohol into our Cokes. And this is the same country club where I’d sneak into the pool with friends in the middle of the night. I was much more adventurous in college than high school.
Chapter 6 | Out of Control
Let’s talk about the guys in Lana’s life and what they mean to the story. Joey is physical attraction. That intense connection that is instantaneous and makes Lana lose track of everything around her. She’s not herself when she’s with him — it’s thrilling sparks but at what cost? Parker is the guy everyone wants but is unattainable. So when Lana becomes that for him, he can’t take the rejection and continues to pursue her. But would he actually want her if he finally got her? Grant brings out Lana’s honesty, her truth. And it’s startling and scary for her because she can’t hide from him. She feels exposed. But if he likes everything he sees, no matter how raw, is that a bad thing? Brendan challenges Lana. He makes her question everything — especially if she can trust him (or anyone). He exposes the hard truth and pushes every single one of her buttons. But she can’t seem to hate him, not totally.
Chapter 7 | Scandal
Everyone at Blackwood is there for a reason. We get a glimpse of everyone’s life and scandalous choices when they confess what got them sent to the school in the middle of nowhere. It’s apparent Lana, the only one who's been arrested and spent time in juvie, is not like the others. She doesn’t blame her mother for her life. And she doesn’t have the money or prestige to warrant her being sent there. Ashton is there after she embarrassed her parents with drug use at a club. Sophia also has an affection for pills as she fights for some semblance of control. Lance took the fall for Parker, being caught with drugs in his possession. And well…Brendan did what he does best and hacked into his principal’s account and transferred his money to the wife he just happens to be sleeping with. This is a good time to note the use of drugs and alcohol in the story. It is not my intention to promote drug & alcohol use. But the use of them, recreationally or otherwise, has its purpose in this storytelling.
Chapter 8 | Conspiracy
Brendan has an agenda. What he knows and what he still wants to know is still not certain. But he’s gone out of his way to get to know Lana, and his methods aren’t exactly legal. Or ethical. And they could even be considered creepy. But we do know why? He believes Lana has information that could explain his mother’s death. And that information begins with Niall Harrison and his connection with Lana’s mother. Brendan is not forthcoming with what he already knows, but probes for answers at every chance he gets.
Chapter 9 | The Harrison Brothers
Parker. Joey. Lance. There’s just something about the Harrison brothers. They’re cute. Charming. And fiercely protective of Lana. But can they be trusted? When I created the personality of each character, I considered where they would fit in the world of fae or in fairytales. And I wrote the Harrison brothers with knights in mind, with their father leading the charge. Niall’s career is a legal “defender” with that in mind. Their protective characteristic is an instinct. It’s part of their innate make up to protect Lana. There’s a little more to it than this but it’ll be revealed later... There are three brothers because the power of three is often used in fairytales. I insert many more instances of three in the story if you happen to notice. Typically, three siblings entails that one is evil, one is bad and the third is a hero. I broke that rule with the Harrisons, but I don’t always.
Chapter 10 | Screaming Point
Lana is a petite ball of anger. She takes on the world one disingenuous person at a time. Defending her mother’s broken heart and warding off line-crossing advances. She doesn’t trust easily, but it’s understandable because when people reveal their truth, it’s pretty ugly. We get to see a bit more about what makes Lana so angry in this chapter. How fed up she is with having to protect her mother, herself, and now Allie from the men who have wronged them. And that’s one of the big themes in this story. Being betrayed, violated and broken – each character has their own story of heartbreak or betrayal. And they have all chosen to cope or hide or confront it completely differently. Which brings us to Screaming Point. It’s a sacred place that Ashton can truly be herself. And she chooses to share it with Lana. There’s nothing like being vulnerable and screaming at the top of your lungs to form a lasting connection. (I’m a pillow screamer myself.)
Chapter 11 | Grey Line
Grant’s vow isn’t popular or even heard of. But shouldn’t it be? How many jokes or movies have been created with the “walk of shame” in mind. Where is the line between consent and assault when neither really remembers what happened? There’s a law in place that prevents a driver from getting behind the wheel of a car to prevent them from causing harm. Perhaps a moral code should be in place that does the same for sex. I’m not proposing policy. But would like to start a conversation. To question the societal norms that currently exist about drunken one-night stands – nights that most likely wouldn’t happen if sober. To protect those who wake up not remembering the events of the night before, only to recognize they’ve been violated without consent, knowing it’ll be nearly impossible to prove if reported. It’s important that I have a nice guy in my books. I want readers to recognize that we don’t have to settle for anything less than someone who admires and respects us.
Chapter 12 | Best Self
Isaac Garner is Lana’s “life advisor” at Blackwood. He was first her guidance counselor at Sherling, accepting a position at Blackwood upon her admittance – referred by Niall Harrison. Which lets us know that Niall’s reach is far and influential. And Mr. Garner is tied to him in some way. It’s interesting that Mr. Garner keeps popping up in Lana’s life, don’t you think? First at Sherling High, then at The Point, and now at Blackwood School. He appears to be someone who wants to be there for Lana. He really, really tries to help. But it’s hard to help someone when they won’t let you. Yet he refuses to give up.
Chapter 13 | Lana's Birthday
Lana has mixed feelings about her birthday. It’s a day she’s not used to celebrating with anyone other than her grandmother. So now, it’s a painful reflection upon the loss. It’s also a day her mother avoids her, since Lana’s birth is a reminder of the love she’s lost. This year, for her sixteenth, Lana starts the day with an awkward call with her mom, tears over her grandmother and ends it dancing with new friends, breaking it off with an old crush and slow dancing with a new one. It was a pretty emotional day for our girl. But hopefully her three wishes come true.
Chapter 14 | Karmic Balance
Does good always prevail in the end? Lana doesn’t believe so. I believe that what we put out into the world finds its way back to us. You can't be hurt if you don't allow others to project feelings onto you. You can't feel judgment unless you believe the criticism has some truth. I tell my son all the time, the only way you can feel embarrassed is if you care what others think. Love yourself. Be grateful for every positive moment and experience in your life. It forms this impenetrable bliss bubble that keeps negativity out. Love is a pretty powerful force. Lana finds a picture of a group that includes her mother as a teenager and Niall Harrison, along with others she doesn’t recognize. On the back another note indicates that these messages have to do with her mother. Something in the past is coming back around to affect the present. This story is about love, truly. It takes Lana on a journey of self-discovery, uncovering past secrets, in order to figure out what love means to her.
Chapter 15 | The Actual Truth
Lana knows she can’t trust Brendan, but she makes the decision to let him in on the notes she’s been receiving, along with the latest picture…after she discovers the photo of Brendan’s mother with her mother framed on his bookshelf. He may be forthcoming with the truth, but there is so much he’s not telling her. Brendan’s manipulative. And we really don’t know how much he already knows, and what he’s discovering alongside Lana. But he sees much more than he lets on, literally, when he reveals his secret lair in the attic above his room. Cursed with Perception, Brendan puts on a clever front while doing whatever he deems necessary to uncover what happened to his mother.
Chapter 16 | Not a Possession
Lana often resorts to physical violence to protect herself or those she cares about – an instinctive defensive mechanism. A way for her to claim her space and keep others away. It’s not a quality she’s proud of, and it takes a moment of being vulnerable with Grant for her to see the truth of it… why she does it. Lana pushes everyone away, some literally, to keep herself safe. Her body and her heart. She fears that if she lets anyone in, they will take advantage of either. This was a significant moment for Lana – to recognize the fear that resides deep within - that causes her to lash out and not allow anyone to claim her.
Chapter 17 | Lying to Yourself
Lana is committed to not being in a relationship. To not allow herself to be put in a position that someone could leave her. That she could be hurt. But is she really protecting herself? Or lying to herself? Lana may not be able to lie to others, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t lie to herself, even if she’s not aware she’s doing it. Which is why it’s important that she has people in her life who will call her out on her inability to see the truth. Friends who know when she’s being authentic, and when she’s hiding behind armor. Good thing she has Ashton.
Chapter 18 | Love Never Hurts. Ever.
Squirrel, in all his wisdom, attempts to explain the difference between love and fear during their magical brown ride. He proclaims that the only thing getting in the way of love, which is who we really are, is fear. And it’s the fear that drives us apart, causing pain and heartache. Never love. I felt that the only way Lana was going to be open to actually hearing this explanation is if she were in a much more… transcendent state. And Squirrel needed to explain it to her in a way that conflicts with everything she understood about love in her life, in a way she could relate. This scene is one of my favorites. I laughed while writing it--and each time I’d revisit it. It allowed me to sprinkle my personal philosophies into the story but in a playful way.
Chapter 19 | Trust Kills
“The name she screams may be different than mine. But he’s still the same person. The one who didn’t hear us say no. Who made me start punching first. The one who took away my beliefs. And then cast my curse upon me.” We learn so much more about Lana in this chapter: Where her claustrophobia comes from. How her grandmother died. The origin of her curse. Why she doesn’t trust easily. And that she shares her reason to scream with Ashton. The flashback is a powerful scene and it wasn’t easy for me to write. The moment a girl changes her view of the world and those who she trusted to care for her. It hardened her heart and clenched her fists.
Chapter 20 | Sleepover
Grant chuckles. “You guys are … I don’t even know. I’m glad I got to see it though.” Brendan. Ashton. Lance. And Lana. They have an undeniable bond. Grant recognizes it the night of the sleepover, when they bombard Lana to comfort her after her claustrophobia-induced panic attack. It's still unknown what causes the episodes exactly. And they don’t pry – although Ashton instinctively understands, and we find out later Brendan knows too. All they DO know is that Lana needed them. So they are there for her. This was a fun bonding scene to write. Giving them a moment to be friends: ridiculous and sweet. To show just how connected they are, even if they've yet to realize it. After everything Lana has been through, it was important for me to show that she isn’t alone – even if she still doesn’t know who to trust.
Chapter 21 | Idiots
Even if Lana is unable to say the words, or hear them just yet, she can’t deny that she’s an idiot for Grant. She still tries to logic her way through it – questioning if the feelings are real after such a short time. If they’ll last, especially when they’ll be attending two separate schools in the fall. But she has come to terms that what she’s feeling is love. And that she trusts Grant. This is a big revelation for our girl. And she needs someone like Grant who is so patient and understanding. Who won’t push her for more than she’s willing to give. But isn’t afraid to admit exactly how he feels either, even if he can only proclaim that he’s an idiot too.
Chapter 22 | Family Tree
The secrets began before they were born. And those spurred a string of events seventeen years later that their parents could never have predicted. Let’s plot what we do know: Lana has a picture with everyone’s parents in it. Lily’s mother, The Harrison boys’ parents, Her mother, Brendan’s mother and Vic’s parents. Everyone is pregnant. Faye and Maggie (Brendan’s mother) were friends. Brendan knew this but not what happened between them. Faye was dating Kaden Harrison. Now Faye is heartbroken and Lana believes it has to do with her father. Vic’s father died the weekend the photo was taken. Faye never told Lana about the Harrison’s. Joey found photos of them together as little kids. The house in the photo on Nantucket belongs to the Harrisons. Two people are NOT in the photo – the person running into the frame and whoever is taking the picture. Whoever is giving Lana the notes/pictures KNOWS the secret, at least one of them. Find out the truth in Parts 3&4!
“Wolfe. Morgan Wolfe. Hell, you pretty much named him in the story you wrote.” “You’re a talented storyteller. A bit dark and twisted, but good.”
Read the whole fairytale here...