Tag Archive: abuse


things you kiss goodbye

The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor

Bettina has been raised in a very strict family.  She’s not allowed to do anything other than attend dance classes, which ended when her best friend moved away.  Otherwise it is only school and home.  So when a very sweet basketball player at school asks her out, she is forced to say no.  But he doesn’t accept that and manages to charm Bettina’s family enough that she is allowed to go out with him.  At first everything is wonderful and Brady is a perfect boyfriend, who takes things very slow and doesn’t pressure.  But as they date more, Brady begins to change.  He gets angrier as pressure goes up on the basketball court.  Then Bettina meets a man who is everything that Brady isn’t.  He doesn’t ask for anything from her, never gets mad, and Bettina finds herself longing to spend more time with him even though her family would never approve.  Bettina knows she has to leave Brady before he hurts her more badly, but as she hesitates something happens so that the truth of the two men in her life must be revealed.

Connor captures an abusive relationship with a delicacy that allows the reader to begin to rationalize what happens to Bettina along with her.  This is not straight-forward beatings, but rather teasing taken too far, anger expressed in the wrong way, and as Bettina learns to tiptoe around Brady the reader realizes that they too have been drawn into the wrong relationship alongside her.  It is powerfully done.  When Connor adds the character of Cowboy to the book, it is a surprising choice.  His gentleness and quiet in an older man makes for a charismatic character unusual in teen novels.  While he is a foil for the young and angry Brady, he is also himself a complicated and intriguing figure.

Connor seems to write only complicated characters, much to her credit.  Bettina is a girl who is eager to leave the confines of her upbringing, pushing against her parents’ control.  Yet even her parents are completely drawn characters, struggling to do their best for their daughter.  The book plays with overprotective parents who don’t manage to protect their daughter from anything in the end.  Yet their love is what lingers beyond that.

A powerful read with moments of breathlessness from surprise and shock, this book is not only about an abusive relationship but about true love and hope too.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss and Katherine Tegen Books.

Review: Reality Boy by A. S. King

reality boy

Reality Boy by A. S. King

Gerald became a reality TV star at age five when his mother brought in a television nanny to help him with his anger issues.  He had been putting holes in the walls.  He then started crapping around the house, often caught on camera.  Now Gerald is seventeen and still struggling with anger in his life.  His abusive older sister is back home, living in the basement.  His closer sister has gone to college in Scotland and never calls.  His mother and father are both entirely ineffective to stop anything.  Gerald spends much of his time in Gerland, a world filled with ice cream and candy, where no one is angry or mean.  But he can’t live there forever, and he has to return to the real world where he has no friends and people call him The Crapper.  It’s all too much sometimes for Gerald to handle, but he has to figure out a way to handle things that doesn’t have him escaping to a fantasy world or beating someone bloody.

I found this book to be entirely gripping.  The premise of a boy who is damaged by a reality show that is meant to help (at least on the surface) is very clever.  As the layers of the story are pulled back, one discovers who the true problem is.  King does this in surprising ways though flashbacks that continue to shock even though one thinks all is revealed.  This is a book that will do much to show teens that abuse by siblings and children happens to others.

King has created a wounded hero in Gerald.  He is stunted by his family, unable to grow up and unable to control his outbursts.  The reader aches for him, roots for him and yes is also frightened by his lack of control.  He is a teen caught by his past and unable to see a future.  One weakness of the book is the depiction of Gerald’s family.  They are not fully developed and the book loses something because of that, given that they are so much of the story of Gerald’s dysfunction. 

Gerald is a magnificent character, and the book is compelling and harrowing.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital copy received from NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

all the truth thats in me

All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry

Judith has returned to her family and her small Puritan town after being missing for two years but she is unable to speak because her tongue has been cut out.  Without speech, the entire community ignores Judith and treats her as if she is less than a person.  Her own mother reviles her, never saying her name and ordering her around as “you” instead.  In her silence, Judith has many secrets that she keeps close.  She sees everything and moves through the town as if she is a ghost.  But inside herself, Judith is smart, caring and dutiful.  When her mother refuses to hear her attempts at speech, Judith stops trying altogether.  When the boy she loves takes another as a fiancé, Judith is only kind to the girl.  Secrets though have a way of getting out and one dangerous secret may just be able to save their community.

The first thing I have to say is that the cover is lovely but very misleading.  This is a book set in an unnamed historical setting and the cover reads entirely modern.  Reading the book I was astonished to find it was historical fiction and kept turning back to the cover in confusion.  The paperback cover is no better since it also conveys a modern feel. 

With the cover aside, this is one incredible read.  One might think the lack of real historical context would be an issue, but it works well here.  The focus is on the people rather than the setting, though the world of Puritanical thought is an important element throughout.  The book is a real mystery novel with the questions of what really happened to Judith swirling throughout the book.  The reveal is tantalizingly written, making for one compelling novel.

Berry writes with a lyrical voice throughout, capturing the loneliness and longing of Judith.  The beauty of the writing serves as a way for readers to see the thoughts of Judith and understand that she is rich with thinking inside.  Berry is also masterful at pacing and how she reveals the details.  It is entirely on her terms and readers may guess what is coming but can never be sure until it is revealed.  It is a book where the ending is crucial, exciting and immensely satisfying.

A great pick to book talk for teens, the premise of this historical novel should be more than enough to get teens to pick it up.  The writing and the mystery will keep them reading.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

forgive me leonard peacock

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

No one remembers Leonard’s 18th birthday, not even his mother who is busy with her new French boyfriend in New York City.  Leonard has big birthday plans.  He has presents for four of his closest friends.  He also has a present for his ex best friend, a bullet.  Specifically, a bullet right in his face.  Then Leonard will finish his birthday night by killing himself too.  First though, Leonard has to hand out his presents.  There is one for Walt, his next-door neighbor with whom Walt watches Bogart movies.  One for Lauren, the Christian homeschooler who tried to convert Leonard but only got him to lust after her more.  One for Baback, the gifted violinist whose practice sessions Leonard finds solace in.  And finally, one for Herr Silverman, the only teacher Leonard finds inspiring at all.  The story takes place all in one day filled with tension, hope and honesty.

Quick has created such a great character in Leonard.  Leonard is often arrogant, violently depressed, isolated, completely lonely, and yet infinitely human as well.  While he looks down on his classmates and most of his teachers, as his motivation is slowly revealed to the reader, it all makes sense.  Leonard is a puzzle that the reader gets to solve, and yet he remains complicated still. 

A book like this can be so dark there is not even a glimmer of light, but Quick shines light throughout if you are watching for it.  By the end of the book, you know that Leonard can be alright, if he just allows himself to believe it.  Quick has also written a great character who is a testimony to the role of teachers in teens’ lives.  Herr Silverman puts his own career in jeopardy to help Leonard, making him a hero in every sense of the word.  He is selfless and courageous, and it is clear from the first time he enters the book that he will either save Leonard or Leonard is beyond saving entirely. 

Harrowing, frightening and astonishingly hopeful, this book is a strong and passionate look at a boy willing to destroy everything, especially himself.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Little, Brown.

if you find me

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Released March 26, 2013.

Carey’s mother has been gone for over a month, leaving Carey alone with her little sister, Jenessa.  They live in a large woods and sleep in an old camper with no heat.  Her mother had left them before, but usually not this long, just long enough to get more meth.  But this time, their mother was not the one who came to their camp, a man and woman arrive, claiming that the man is Carey’s father.  They take the girls back with them.  Carey and Jenessa have never had a hamburger, never watched TV and never really been cared for.  Carey was the only reason that Nessa had survived at all, often serving as the only love she had.  But now the girls were expected to live with Carey’s father, his wife and their stepsister in their home.  It’s a new life filled with challenges that Carey will only be able to accept if she can see the truth of why her mother took her away and also the truth of what she had been forced to do in the woods.

Murdoch has written a book that has a very compelling premise and happily, she is able to make the book about far more than that first bit ripped from the headlines.  She writes about the power of music to heal, the ability of family and love to make things right again, but also the agony of betrayal, the ferocious power of abuse, and the building danger of lies.  Carey is a heroine who has undergone real tragedy in her life, but here is she far from being a victim.  She is instead immensely resourceful, caring and desperate to do what is right for her little sister.

Murdoch also weaves into so much of the book Carey’s connection with nature.  It is the place she turns when in distress, moving even to the outdoor courtyard at the high school in order to find solace outdoors.  Her love of music in also part of it, having played her music under the open sky for so long.  When Murdoch writes of nature, she is part poet, creating a depth in this novel that lifts it to another level.

This story is one of a tough heroine who has to be strong for both herself and her little sister.  It is a tale of survival but also one of recovery and honesty.  I’d think this one would booktalk extremely well thanks to its strong premise that will nicely tantalize teen readers.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Macmillan and Netgalley.

live through this

Live Through This by Mindi Scott

Coley is living a lie.  Her life appears to be perfect on the outside.  She is popular, dances on the school dance team, and has started dating a cute guy in her class.  But that’s just the surface.  After her mother fled an abusive husband in New Zealand, she has since remarried and now has three children with her new husband.  Coley and her brother, Bryan, feel like outsiders sometimes, so many years older than the other children in the family.  And then there is the secret that Coley can’t even admit to herself.  A family member is molesting her at night.  All Coley can do is pretend that it doesn’t happen and just continue to try to live her life.  But it does happen, and it’s getting more and more difficult for Coley to pretend it away.  This is a riveting story about the cost of living a lie and the courage it takes to tell the truth.

Scott’s writing is all the more powerful because of all she leaves out.  Readers know from the very first pages that Coley is being sexually assaulted at night, but Scott doesn’t reveal who it is in her family.  This builds the tension tremendously, making the book impossible to put down until that mystery is solved.  Scott depicts the abuse itself with an unflinching honesty that makes it all the more sinister.

Scott powerfully captures the character of a girl who is working as hard and as fast as she can to stay in denial about what is really happening.  Coley is a complex person, a loving and warm girlfriend and daughter on the surface, but there is so much fear and self-loathing underneath.  Coley also carries a large amount of guilt with her, because of her reaction to the abuse.  Scott does not shy away from the difficult emotions here, while always making sure that readers understand who is truly at fault.

A powerful, wrenching novel for teens that tackles incest and survival.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

tink

Tink by Bodil Bredsdorff

This is the third book in The Children of Crow Cove series.  This book focuses mostly on Tink, who is growing into a young man now.  The people of Crow Cove are facing difficult times as food dwindles at the end of the winter.  They are down to just eating potatoes.  Tink, blaming himself for their hunger, decides to leave Crow Cove, but on his way discovers a man lying at the side of the road.  It turns out to be Burd, the abusive man whom Foula and Eidi ran away from.  Tink returns to the cove with him, bringing into their family both danger and hope.

There is something so special about this series.  Each book is short and yet has depth in it.  There are detailed looks at how the people live.  In this book, there are many details about the wildlife at Crow Cove and how fishing works and storing the catch happens.  These small details create a living, breathing world in the book.

The characters here are ones that readers of the series will recognize.  Villains from previous books return again, displaying complex reactions and roles.  No character here is written simply, rather they are complicated and require compassion from the reader and others in the story. 

This third book is a great addition to the series, displaying the same strengths as the other books.  I am hoping for more books as change comes again to Crow Cove at the end of this book, and I just have to know what happens to my beloved characters.  Appropriate for ages 11-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus & Giroux.

31eb2oFeyHL._SS500_

Hush by Eishes Chayil

Gittel lives in the closed Chassidic community of Borough Park in New York City.  The rules of the Chassidic community are strict and clear.  Their lives are separate from modern technologies and a modern lifestyle.  Family is to be honored and respected.  Marriages are arranged by matchmakers and parents.  Children are treasured, but live with strict limitations.  When Gittel witnesses her friend being sexually molested by her older brother, the community shuts down any mention of the situation.  When the situation progresses to a horrible end, Gittel must decide what to do and whether to betray her family and community or her friend.  Painfully, it takes Gittel years to admit what she has seen and bring it to light.  This is a remarkable book that exposes shameful secrets in the Chassidic community while equally showing the positive side of their beliefs and lifestyle. 

This is Chayil’s own story, a Chassidic Jew who also witnessed a friend’s abuse.  Through her writing she has exposed her own pain and truth.  Chayil’s writing allows all readers to respect the beliefs of this community.  Gittel’s family is warm and wonderful, the ideal family to contrast against the strict beliefs and limitations.  They fairly glow with love, the perfect foil for the other family suffering the abuse.  Chayil’s writing is subtle and solid.  Firmly grounded in reality, it depicts the community with honesty, demonstrating how rules that protect can also become rules that restrict and bind.  What is most impressive is Chayil’s ability to show that the responses from various people change when they know the truth, have seen it before, and understand there is an issue.  The establishment is not the enemy here, ignorance is.

Gittel is a character that readers see grow from a young girl to a married teen.  Through it all, she struggles with the truth and her own guilt about the situation.  Her emotions are vivid and blazing, yet they ring with truth.  Other characters in the story are just as well written, such as Gittel’s parents and husband.

A brave and amazing book, this is a glimpse for readers into a closed society written by a woman who understands it well.  It is also a call for all of us to tell the truth to shout it out in order to save those who we love who are enduring the unimaginable.  Appropriate for ages 15-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Walker Books.

Scars

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Kendra has started to remember her abuse as a child, but she is unable to see her abuser’s face in her memories.  She believes she is being followed by her abuser, so she lives in fear that even as she works to remember, he is stalking her.  To cope with the pressure of the memories, Kendra cuts her arm, releasing all of her stress, anguish and pain and making it something she can handle.  Kendra also does amazing art work that reveals the pain of her abuse and the emotional toll it is taking on her.  Her mother, a professional artist, has been critical of the raw emotion of Kendra’s work, so Kendra hides her work from her.  Her father has become emotionally distant after Kendra told her parents about the abuse, so Kendra turns to her therapist, her art teacher, and her new girlfriend for support.  As Kendra’s memories build, readers will be unable to put the book down until all is revealed.

Rainfield, herself a survivor of abuse and cutting, has captured the situation with such power and ferocity that it can be painful to read.  Readers will find themselves in a vise of tension and menace that mirrors Kendra’s.  Rainfield has written a powerhouse of a book that is astoundingly honest and burningly real.  The character of Kendra is written with empathy and skill.  She never reads as a victim but as a heroine, seeking the truth about what happened to her.  The use of her art in the book to connect her to other people, speak when she cannot say the words, and scream for her pain is hauntingly real.

Get this into the hands of readers who enjoy tense, realistic reads.  The cover is beautifully done, capturing the cutting and the tension in a single image.  A brilliant book written in nervy honesty.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

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Because I Am Furniture

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Anke lives in fear of her father and his wrath. He abuses her brother and sister in a variety of ways, but Anke is invisible to him. He pays her no attention at all. She begins to wonder what is worse, abuse or being completely ignored as if she is nothing. Then Anke joins the volleyball team at school and finds her voice. Her growing strength of body and spirit means that she can no longer be the silent witness at home. Told in poems, this novel explores the damage of abuse in a family and what happens when one person changes her role.

Chaltas’ poems capture small scenes in Anke’s life, adding up together into a full picture of a teen girl and the strange world she survives in. There are poems that hurt to read, changing the way breath moves out of your body. The poems are built to ebb and flow, not all have that crippling pain in them, allowing readers to breathe once more. But all carry the knowledge of a tortuous existence. Beautifully written, wonderfully paced and vividly done.

Recommended for readers of A Child Called It, this book uses poetry to bring emotions and pain directly to the reader. Not for the faint of heart, this book is powerful and bleak, but will leave readers with hope in the end. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

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