South Portland resident Julie True Kingsley, author of “The Space Between You and Me,” says “a single story can change ideas and allow us to understand each other in a new way.” Contributed / Julie True Kingsley

Lifelong Mainer Julie True Kingsley said she’s witnessed a lot of class and cultural divisions in her home state that aren’t always acknowledged. As a former teacher, she saw many challenges that young people in Maine face, often with few safety nets.

Her debut young adult novel, “The Space Between You and Me,” is “Romeo and Juliet in the blueberry fields of Maine,” she said, but it is also “a study in how kids come to the same table with very different realities,” she said.

Kingsley lives in South Portland and grew up in Scarborough. Her book, released this month, is set in an imaginary town near Cherryfield, and follows Clem, a young aspiring dancer from Los Angeles who spends her summers on her family’s farm in Maine, and Rico, a migrant farm worker whose family works in the blueberry fields.

Julie True Kingsley’s young adult novel was released this month by Islandport Press. Contributed / Islandport Press

“There’s a changing scene of what we see as ‘traditional Mainers,'” she said. “We have a really strong migrant community that no one talks about.”

The story stretches through multiple farming seasons, and Kingsley said she also hopes that the narrative of Rico and his family will also spark conversations about where food comes from and how Mainers support farm workers in the state.

“I think a single story can change ideas and allow us to understand each other in a new way,” she said.


Kingsley taught writing at Southern Maine Community College for 10 years and taught at Greeley High School in Cumberland before that.

“Teaching at SMCC I got to work with kids from around the world, and I learned so much from everyone’s individual stories,” she said.

Something she was interested in when writing the book was how 18 is a kind of magic number, she said, where suddenly kids are considered adults, but often without much guidance or support.

“I think we should question how we’re allowing 18-year-olds to fall off a cliff,” she said.

She hopes young people will connect with the characters and their struggles to make sense of the world around them and their place in it.

“I don’t want to tell kids how to feel or how they should be,” she said. “I like to have my characters exist in a space and just be with them and sit with their stakes.”


Her publisher, Islandport Press in Yarmouth, recognized the value the book had to a Maine audience in particular, she said.

“This book is set in the Downeast blueberry barrens, and it’s sort of a classic romance with a really good Maine twist and sense of place that also tackles some social issues,” said Dean Lunt, founder and editor-in-chief of Islandport Press.

It can be difficult to capture the local Maine feel while also offering a story with broader and more universally resonant themes, but Kingsley’s story does that, Lunt said.

“It’s also just a great summer beach read that’s really charming and likable,” he said.

Kingsley said that the geography plays a large role in the story, and as a Mainer whose family has lived here for generations, she enjoyed paying homage to the scenes that have meant so much to her.

She said there have been talks around the potential for a film adaptation of her novel.

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