An author with roots in Mason is debuting her new novel “DIY High” in July.

Amanda Webster’s third novel is about a teenager who is dealing with an abusive, absentee father and a mother, who has fallen into a prescription drug addiction. Added to that is the obstacles the young woman has to deal with as a high schooler.

“I wanted to write a story that takes place in small-town America in a rural area of the type that is often overlooked by the big publishers and the literary world in general. I wanted to write a story about people like me and the people I grew up around,” Webster said. “I see a lot of kids left behind in the educational system because they don’t fit the type that many educators are trained to educate.”

Webster said her story focuses on a teenager named Gabby, who is smart and wants to go to college. But she is dealing with real problems while trying to succeed in an educational setting that often ignores kids who don’t live in ideal circumstances. She said the book is her way of showing what it’s like to be working poor in the United States today.

Webster described her newest novel as a young adult selection but urges both teens and adults to pick up the book. She hopes the book’s message will reach people of all walks of life.

“The message could be different for different readers. For teens who are living through similar circumstances, I hope this story will help them feel like they are not alone,” Webster said. “For teens and adults who have never had to experience such dire circumstances, I really hope this helps them empathize with people like Gabby and find better ways to help them.”

Webster said she would also like to see less judgement of families like her character Gabby’s because of the book.

Webster attended schools in Mason and Edgewood, Central School in Effingham and graduated from Effingham High School in 1994. Webster graduated with a master’s degree in creative writing from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2013. In addition to writing, Webster also leads creative writing workshops at Heartland Community College and her local library in McLean.

Webster began writing at a young age and was in a gifted writing program in the 1980s with a writing teacher who would work one on one with her at Mason and Edgewood schools. Since graduating from college, Webster has written the book “Valley of the Bees” and novella “F-ing Freddy Fisher,” as well as some short stories.

Webster said the ultimate reward for her as an author is to see her hard work come together in a printed publication.

“That moment when you finally hold a copy of a book in your hands that you have spent so much time putting together provides such an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment,” Webster said.

“DIY High” will publish July 9 in print and on Kindle, and readers can pre-order the book on Kindle now. All of Webster’s books are available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble and most other major online booksellers. Effingham High School also has a copy of “Valley of the Bees” available for students.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.