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 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 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.
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 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.
Also reviewed by:
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.