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Indestructible Object


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About The Book

“Beautifully messy and real.” —Amy Spalding, bestselling author of We Used to Be Friends

Perfect for fans of What If It’s Us and Mary H. K. Choi, this stunning coming-of-age novel from Printz Honor author Mary McCoy follows a Memphis teen whose quest to uncover the secrets of love reveals new truths about herself.

For the past two years, Lee has been laser-focused on two things: her job as a sound tech at a local coffee shop and her podcast Artists in Love, which she cohosts with her boyfriend Vincent.

Until he breaks up with her on the air right after graduation.

When their unexpected split, the loss of her job, and her parent’s announcement that they’re separating coincide, Lee’s plans, her art, and her life are thrown into turmoil. Searching for a new purpose, Lee recruits her old friend Max and new friend Risa to produce a podcast called Objects of Destruction, where they investigate whether love actually exists at all.

But the deeper they get into the love stories around them, the more Lee realizes that she’s the one who’s been holding love at arm’s length. And when she starts to fall for Risa, she finds she’ll have to be more honest with herself and the people in her life to create a new love story of her own.

Funny, romantic, and heartfelt, this is a story about secrets, lies, friendship, found family, an expired passport, a hidden VHS tape, fried pickles, the weird and wild city of Memphis, and, most of all, love.


Chapter 1: Artists in Love CHAPTER 1 Artists in Love

“I Hope I Gave You a Good Love Story”

Hosted by Vincent Karega and Lee Swan


The first time we met, you told me I had the kind of voice you’d follow down a dark alley.


Oh yikes, did I? I can’t believe you had any romantic interest in me after that.


I liked it. It was the first time anyone had ever suggested that I might be trouble. I liked that someone like you would think that about someone like me.

LEE: (laughs)

I think what I meant was, you have a trustworthy voice. I wouldn’t have followed a dangerous voice down an alley. What did you think the first time you met me?


You were wearing a T-shirt that said, THERE IS NO MUSIC UNDER LATE CAPITALISM. I thought it was really pretentious.


Because I am really pretentious, Vincent.


Only about things you really care about. That was what I liked about you right away, Lee. That’s what I still like about you.

Every week for the past two years, Vincent and I have met in my attic to record our podcast, Artists in Love. This episode, we are the artists in love. And we are about to break up.


Have you heard about the performance artists Marina Abramovic´ and Ulay? They were lovers, and they made art together for over a decade. For their last piece, they walked from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, and met in the middle, and then they broke up. That’s what this feels like to me.


So is this performance art, or is it life?


Can’t it be both?

Twenty-four hours before Vincent and I went up to the attic to record Episode #86, “I Hope I Gave You a Good Love Story,” I knew what my life was going to look like for at least the next four years.

We’d been accepted to the same college, right here in Memphis, and the plan was that I would major in recording technology, with a minor in music business, and he would major in creative writing, with a minor in graphic design. We would funnel everything we learned back into the podcast. He would write our stories, and I would make them sound beautiful. We would get an apartment together. And after that, who knows? We talked about starting a new project together, or traveling the world, or moving to New York.

We talked about how we’d avoid turning into our parents—his, so traditional and conservative and terrified of anything outside the airtight corridor between their home and their church; mine, a pair of feuding conjoined twins, too miserable to stay together, too codependent to mercy-kill their marriage.

Case in point: my parents had announced their separation the day after I graduated from high school, and now two weeks later, neither of them had so much as packed a suitcase.

I will not lie, there were times during my relationship with Vincent when I might have flaunted our love a little bit, as if to say to my parents, For fuck’s sake, I’m eighteen and I’m better at having a healthy relationship than you are.

Shows what I know.


I have an artist breakup story for you, too, Vincent. It’s very self-serving. It’s about Lee Miller and Man Ray.


Ah, your namesake, to whom you would dedicate every episode of this podcast if I would have let you.


Well, ha. Last episode, and you can’t do shit to stop me now.


I wouldn’t dream of it.

In the South, people name everything Lee—streets, schools, parks, entire neighborhoods. People plaster Robert E. Lee’s name on so many things here, it’s like they forget he was the bad guy in this historical narrative.

Thankfully, I am not named after a Confederate general. My parents named me after the photographer Lee Miller, who started off as a model in Vogue, before she decided she wanted to be on the other side of the camera. She moved to Paris, joined the Surrealist artists, and had a series of passionate and scandalous love affairs, then became a photojournalist on the front lines of World War II. Nobody here knows about her, however, and people tend to assume I was named after Robert E. Lee like everything else around here is, so I guess my parents’ cheeky little joke backfired.

I do like being named after her, though. She went where she wanted to go, lived how she wanted to live. She was the kind of person who would photograph her lover in a gas mask or organize a topless picnic in the woods for all her friends. I guarantee you that Robert E. Lee never once organized a topless picnic.


In 1923, the artist Man Ray attached a photograph of an eye to a metronome. He set it in motion and painted to the rhythm. The eye on the metronome tracked his every move in the studio, letting him know if the work was any good or not. He called it Object to Be Destroyed.

When Lee Miller broke up with him a decade later, he remade the object using a photograph of her eye, and included the instructions for its use, which read: “Cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome and regulate the weight to set the tempo desired. Keep going to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow.”

This time, he called the piece Object of Destruction.

Because that’s what Lee Miller became. Once, she’d been the object of his affection, and then she destroyed his heart. It was like she took aim with a hammer, and laid waste to it.


That’s intense.


He was devastated.


Is that how you’re feeling right now?


It’s just a story.


I don’t know if I could handle it, knowing that my leaving would cause you to suffer like that.


That’s the thing about breakups, Vincent; the whole point of them is that you don’t get to know. Because you’re not there.

When we finish recording the last episode of Artists in Love at one in the morning, we stop and hold each other, and for a moment, I wonder if he’s going to change his mind. But then he lets go of me, he wipes the tears from his eyes, and we go back to work.


I should probably explain to our listeners. This week, I was accepted to Howard University off the waitlist. For our listeners who may not be familiar, Howard is a historically Black college, or HBCU, in Washington, DC, and it’s where some of the greatest Black scholars, scientists, politicians, and artists got their education. Toni Morrison went there, and Zora Neale Hurston, and Kamala Harris.

And now, I guess, me.

That was amazing enough on its own, but then something else happened. National Public Radio has a paid summer internship program. I was sure I wouldn’t get it. I was so sure, I didn’t even tell anyone I’d applied—and then I got it. So I’m moving to Washington, DC, next week.


I’m happy for you, Vincent. I know it sounds cliché, but I really am. It’s a great opportunity.


It’s a lot to process. Since I got the news, I’ve been having five feelings at once, at all times. I’m excited about the challenges; nervous I won’t be up to them; dazzled by the possibilities; terrified at the prospect of uprooting my entire life with a week’s notice.

And of course, my heart is breaking to leave you, Lee.


But I don’t want you wondering, What if? I want you free in the world. I want you to go after the things you want. I’d be pissed if you never found them because of me.

That’s some pretty evolved shit right there, isn’t it? Even in the moment, it surprises me. My voice becomes this center of eerie calm, even though the rest of me feels like a flooded wasteland.

What I don’t say to Vincent is that I wish he’d told me about the things he wanted sooner. It might have occurred to me to want other things too.

I don’t know what I was thinking, why I’d bothered getting idealistic about any of this when I had a lifetime of hard evidence that love doesn’t last forever and that tying your future to another human being is the surest way to end up regretting all of it.


Lee, can you promise me you’re going to be okay?


Can you promise me you’re making the right choice?


Can you promise me you’ll keep doing this without me?


Can you promise me you’re going to be happy?


I can’t.


Me neither.


I guess you can’t ask other people to make promises like that.


But Vincent, if this is the last time we’re here in my attic, telling each other love stories, I’m glad we’re ending with ours.


I hope I gave you a good love story, Lee.

And then Vincent and I sign off, the way we’ve always signed off at the end of each episode: “Until we meet again, make art, make beautiful love stories.”

Around four in the morning, I almost forget we’ve broken up. We’re in our flow, me editing and mixing, him listening, rewriting, making us do it again when it’s not good enough. We’re both completely focused on the work at hand, and it’s nearly finished when I say the thing that’s been tugging at my sleeve for the past hour.

“What do you think about cutting the last line, the part where you tell me you hope you gave me a good love story?”

“Why?” he asks. “So we can end with the part you say?”

“It’s not about who says it, Vincent. It’s about how, maybe some things should stay personal. Some things we should keep only for us.”

He goes quiet for a minute, and it seems like he’s about to agree with me until he shakes his head and says, “But it’s a good line.”

I don’t want our last episode, our last night together, to have a disagreement in it, and besides, we’re breaking up. We don’t need to keep anything for us because there is no us anymore.

“It is a good line,” I admit.

“Actually, it would make a good title for the episode,” he says.

“Let’s leave it in, then,” I say. “Screw it.”

“Yeah, screw it!”

Vincent doesn’t swear. He has no vices that I’m aware of, so when he says “Screw it,” I know he is not fucking around.

We upload the final episode of Artists in Love at six in the morning. We sneak down the attic steps together for the last time. I drive him home, and we hug goodbye, and he walks up the sidewalk.

I keep up my eye-of-the-hurricane calm until he turns out the porch light, and then I fall apart because for two years of my life, this was everything, and now it’s over.

About The Author

Mary McCoy is a writer and a librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. She has also been a contributor to On Bunker Hill and the 1947project, where she wrote stories about Los Angeles’s notorious past. Mary is the author of Dead to MeCamp So-and-So, the Printz Honor Book I, Claudia, and Indestructible Object. She grew up in western Pennsylvania and studied at Rhodes College and the University of Wisconsin.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (July 12, 2022)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534485068
  • Ages: 12 - 99

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Awards and Honors

  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Intermediate Title
  • ALA/YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults - Top Ten

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