KENNEBUNK, Maine — Kennebunk may appear to be an idyllic town, as described in the first pages of “Wasted on the Young,” but for its fictional character, a student at Kennebunk High School, it’s her worst nightmare.
Now in local stores, “Wasted on the Young” is a fictional love story set in the 1970s that takes place in Kennebunk, centering around two Kennebunk High School students who forge an odd alliance out of negative circumstances. Written as two novelettes, the book’s two characters come together in the 1970s, lose touch and then reunite 30 years later.
This is the latest release from author Thomas E. Coughlin, who owns a number of cottages in Wells, lives in Chester, N.H. and works full time as a certified public accountant. The book is now available in local stores, including Marlows and Mail-It Unlimited in Kennebunk, and Congdon’s Doughnuts in Wells.
“It’s my eighth book, but I’m still psyched about it,” said Coughlin, who in “Wasted on the Young” has re-created Kennebunk and its high school 35 years ago.
In doing so, he researched the stores on Kennebunk’s Main Street in old telephone books and advertisements in the York County Coast Star. He learned how KHS was set up at the time by talking to current and former staff of the high school, such as Joe Foster after whom Coughlin created a character in the book.
Also created as a character in the book is the late Jodi Bibber, who was the first merchant to buy and sell Coughlin’s first book. Bibber was a home economics teacher at KHS, which Coughlin said he learned while flipping through old yearbooks.
“Wasted on the Young” was inspired by teenage bullying, particularly the case of Phoebe Prince in Massachusetts, who took her own life after suffering months of bullying from school classmates. Coughlin was inspired to create a positive story out of such a tragic case.
The book’s main character, Emma, faces unbearable torment at the hands of her classmates, but is saved by an unusual ally, a tall, imposing, boy who moves to the school from out of town.
The book’s cover was shot in the middle of the Mousam River, where Emma goes when she feels she’s had enough.
“The most important chapter of the book takes place right there, in the middle of the river, so there was no other place I would shoot the cover,” Coughlin said. “He starts a conversation and she can’t get rid of him. Her salvation comes at that. She realizes, ‘I may not be at the end of my rope after all.’ And the friendship evolves. The connection is made. A lifelong connection.”
Coughlin said the story and its local ties are sure to catch readers interests.
“I like re-reading it, so that tells me something,” he said.