The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel | Shit got dark real fast

 The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Adult Fiction
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published March 7th, 2017 by Crown
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo

Please note: I received an ARC of this book in for my honest review and participation in the TLC Book Tour.

I read and enjoyed The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel. When I found out she was writing an adult mystery, I had to get my hands on it. The Roanoke Girls is the story of a missing woman, an insanely dysfunctional family, a small town, and a woman returning home to look for her missing cousin.

It had me at “missing woman” and “dysfunctional family.”

Read more…

What to do if your sister is a psychopath | Review of My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

 My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Young Adult (with Adult crossover appeal)
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published November 15th, 2016 by Soho Teen

My Sister Rosa–The story of a nomadic family, a reluctant son, and a psychopathic sister. What would you do if you saw danger in your ten year old sister that no one else did?

We follow seventeen year old Che as he navigates his new life in NYC. Never staying in one place longer than his first childhood home in Sydney, Australia, Che hates moving. All he wants to do is go back to Sydney, back to his friends.

Once Che starts to settle into his new city and his new boxing gym, he meets a girl that makes New York seem not so bad. The beautiful, powerful, lithe, muscular Sojourner—Sid to her friends. He also begins to make friends with the caustic Leilani, daughter of his parents’ friends and benefactors the McBrunights.

Che never truly feels settled though. No matter where he is, no matter how cool his friends, he can never escape his sister Rosa, and his desire to protect her—and protect others from her.

That’s another thing about moving so much—no one else can see what Rosa really is. When Che tries to tell people, they don’t believe him. All they see is the sweet little blonde-ringletted ten year old in front of them. Even his parents make excuse after excuse.

What can Che do when he is not there to watch Rosa? What can he do about the new “friendship” she has made? How can he stop her from manipulating those around her? How far will she go to get what she wants?

This book was a great blend of contemporary realistic YA and mystery. It had the best elements of both. This book gets kudos for diversity, great friendships, swoonworthy romance. It also has the serious creep factor in little Rosa.When I began the book, I thought I was getting into a thriller. Although this book definitely has thrilling elements, I wouldn’t call it that. It’s not straight-up one genre. I liked reading a contemporary from a guy’s perspective—I don’t read those a lot. I’m thinking I should give it a try. And maybe one actually written by a dude.

I did have a couple of qualms, though minor, with My Sister Rosa. There were no Oxford commas and that bugs the shit out of me. I get that some of the words were with the Australian spelling, but I feel like “Woah” is always wrong and that was in there more than once. I also found Sojourner’s brand of Christianity a little unsettling. It’s definitely good to be loving and accepting of all people. But to me, the description of her faith came across as a bit of a cop out of the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too variety.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. If you want an exciting, interesting read with a little bit of creepy, I’d recommend My Sister Rosa.

Note: This book does have some mature content.

Our Final Foray into the Tearling | The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Fate of the Tearling (Queen of the Tearling #3) by Erika Johansen

Hardcover, 496 pages
Published November 29, 2016 by Harper
Please note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for review as part of the book tour. Please also note: This review may contain slight spoilers for the previous two books. However, this does not contain spoilers for The Fate of the Tearling. If you are looking for a review of either of the previous two books, check out some of the other stops on the tour.
This series holds a very… strange place in my heart. When I’m reading it, I’m completely engrossed and totally obsessed. When waiting between installments, I certainly am eagerly anticipating the next one, but I have no problem waiting. And by the time that next one comes out… I seem to have forgotten all the pertinent details. This doesn’t usually happen with books I love, but love these books I do.

 Sadly, this is the final book in the trilogy.
When I began reading The Fate of the Tearling, I sort of wished I had re-read the previous books to refresh my memory. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the time to do that, so I took to the internet. Luckily, this time around there were plenty of reviews and synopsis floating about (this was not the case when I reviewed The Invasion of the Tearling).
As I read, the important things generally came back to me. And man, I was sucked in. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about reading it. It’s such an interesting world with complex and flawed characters. I was always longing to get back to them and their fate.
If I’m being honest, there are flaws in these books and things that, upon reflection, I don’t love. However, when I’m reading them, none of those matter. I get so caught up in the story and the characters that my emotional side takes the reins and my intellectual side takes a bit of a break (but only a bit).
Kelsea is a really interesting character. She is a young woman with so much riding on the success of her reign. There is so much she wants to do for her kingdom, but all of that comes at a price. In this book, payment comes due as the Red Queen takes Kelsea off to Mortmesne. She must face the reality of her decisions the decisions of those that came before her. Is there anything she can do to save the Tearling from its fate?
This book continues the trend of switching back and forth in time and back and forth between characters. We read chapters from Kelsea’s perspective, the Mace’s, the Fetch’s, and characters from the past such as Katie, and Row Finn. We learn more about the Tearling and how it came to be the way it is.
This time around, these changes in perspective sat much better with me. In The Invasion of the Tearling, I found that the changes were jarring and brough me out of the story. In The Fate of the Tearling, however, I thought it was executed much better. I never felt myself pulled from the world of the book.
One of my few qualms with this book is the same as in The Invasion of the Tearling: there wasn’t enough of the Fetch for me! He is such an interesting character and I don’t think he’s used nearly enough! In this book, he was in it much more than the previous one. But most of it was backstory. And honestly, I didn’t love his backstory.
Another qualm I have with this series as a whole is its treatment of religion. It makes sense to me that the Church would become corrupt, and this in itself is not what I have a problem with. I don’t particularly care for the way the characters talk about religion as a whole, as if only the ridiculous, gullible, and uneducated follow any religion. It was treated as a cult. And yes, in this story, the religions are more like cults. But this felt like a blanket judgement of all religions. That didn’t sit right with me.
Finally, this is only kind of a qualm: the ending. I think it’s a fine ending and it was really quite brave of Johansen to do it this way. It makes sense with the plot and it rather fitting of the series. However, when I finished the book, I didn’t feel satisfied. And I know that maybe that’s not the worst thing, especially since the ending was true to the integrity of the story. But still. I wasn’t satisfied.
Overall, I LOVED this book and completely devoured it. This series is definitely one of my favourites. If you haven’t read it, you need to!
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Harper for the opportunity to read and review this book! For more reviews, tour stops, and author information, check out the rest of the book tour here

Jessica Valenti’s Sex Object: A Memoir … And Me

Eight months or so ago, I discovered the work of prominent feminist writer and activist, Jessica Valenti. She’s been doing great work for several years (which, apparently, I’ve been oblivious to), including writing and co-writing six books and founding the website Feministing. After reading some of her stuff, I began eagerly anticipating the spring release of her memoir, Sex Object.

When Sex Object first came on my radar, I began frequently checking the library listings until I was able to put a hold on it. When it came in for me, it was crisp, shiny, and new in its protective plastic sleeve. I wanted to eat it.

The moment I got home, book in hand, I cracked it open and began to read. I devoured it.

Valenti’s writing is raw and unflinching. She draws you in and forces you to see the realities she presents. You can’t look away.

In Sex Object, Valenti presents essay after essay detailing her, often horrific, experiences. From a young age, there was a piece of her identity that was thrust upon her: sex object. She did nothing to garner this attention, but it was given nonetheless.

A high school teacher once told me that identity is half what we tell ourselves and half what we tell other people about ourselves. But the missing piece he didn’t mention—the piece that holds so much weight, especially in the minds of young women and girls—is the stories that other people tell us about ourselves.

Valenti explores this with grueling honesty as she brings us back and forth in her timeline, detailing the ways this has affected her life and continues to do so—in countless and different forms.

When I reached around the halfway point, I knew this wasn’t a book I could just finish and forget about. It wasn’t a book that I could return to the library and never really look at again. So, naturally, mid-read, I went out and bought myself a copy.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t a perfect book. However, it is an honest and important read. Stories like Valenti’s are key pieces in the broader conversation that we all need to be having about sexism, objectification, and harassment. I may have read some fair critiques of Sex Obect, but none of them take away from its value.

One such critique is the seemingly haphazard array of stories throughout Sex Object. The transitions between chapters and sections are often quite jarring. You go from one horrific tale to the beginning of a seemingly innocuous anecdote several years later, and so on and so forth.

I don’t find this a detracting factor. I think this pattern of storytelling embodies what Sex Object is all about. It is jarring and uncomfortable to suddenly find yourself the center of unwanted, sometimes aggressive, sexual behaviour and attention.

While reading Sex Object, I found that I don’t share much of Valenti’s personal experience. I didn’t grow up in a large city. I didn’t use public transit (and still don’t). I grew up in an upper-middle class family, in a small, insular community. I wasn’t exposed to the same things Valenti was as she grew up and matured as a woman. If I experienced such objectification, it was always rare, and almost always treated with a laugh. It was never to such an extreme that I felt more than a little uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, however, things have changed. I’m still not in anywhere near the same circumstances as Valenti, but I now find myself relating to her stories more than ever.

Over the last nine months, I’ve dropped four dress sizes. For the most part, I am proud of myself and feel good and healthy. However, when summer came, I was awash with attention I’d previously rarely received.

When I changed to a summery wardrobe, I wore dresses that exposed (gasp!) my legs, and tops that exposed (gasp!) my shoulders, and things with waistlines that were (gasp!) fitted. And men have noticed. And they have been vocal about it. This is insulting and uncomfortable on so many levels.

I first noticed it at work. Customers gawking at me as I walk by. Male customers repeatedly seeking my help with things they don’t actually need help with. Older men calling me “sweetheart” and plying me with “harmless” flirtatious conversation where they hadn’t before.

This doesn’t just happen at work.

I’ve recently moved into the city and have taken to going for walks regularly. It never occurred to me that an afternoon stroll alone (or even with another girl) might be an occasionally uncomfortable experience. But it is.

I’m a library assistant. Before that, I worked in retail. Smiling at strangers is second nature to me. I do it without even thinking. However, on my walks, I’ve now started to think about it. And stop myself. Just look straight ahead, I tell myself when I pass people on the street.

I know that not everyone is a creep, but at this point I’ve had too many men leer at me in response. I don’t want to see it. I try not to. I try not hear the honks or shouts or whistles as cars drive by.

These incidents may not all happen in rapid succession, but they happen at least once a day. I had been so proud of my weight loss. But now, some days, I feel worse than ever. Outfits that had previously made me feel pretty give me pause. What kind of attention do I want to receive today? I have to scold myself.

If I let thoughts of these men decide what I’m going to wear or do, I’m just giving them more power. And honestly, that’s what they’re after. They seem to think that their thoughts and desires—and the expression of such—are more important than my comfort or safety. They don’t see me as a person.

But I am a person. I am a person with thoughts, feelings, and my own identity. We all are. I wish there was a magic wand I could wave to change this about the world. But, sadly, there isn’t. All we can do is keep our heads up, not accept this as “normal,” and keep talking about it. This kind of attention is not a compliment. It’s harassment.

Valenti’s purpose in Sex Object is an important one. She will not brush off these things. She will not pretend that they don’t happen. She will not for one moment accept that they are in any way okay. Instead, she details her experiences and shows how not okaythey are, how horrible they are. She shows us that these are not one-offs. They are not harmless. These comments and actions are expressions of the deep-seated beliefs that society holds about women. They are a symptom of a greater problem. These attitudes lead to real violence against women.

While my daughter lives in a world that knows what happens to women is wrong, it has also accepted this wrongness as inevitable.

Although I am not a re-reader, I can see myself reading Sex Object again. It made me think about and reflect upon issues that I had previously not personally experienced. Its raw, unflinching, brutal honesty made me shudder at the realities women and girls face, every day. We, like Valenti, need to keep talking about this and stop brushing it aside. We need to stand up, reject this dehumanization, and not consider it “normal” or “inevitable.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to take my cue from Valenti. Society may try to make us out to be sex objects, but let us refuse to accept it.

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published June 7th, 2016 by Dey Street Books
Goodreads | Indigo


He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker | TLC Book Tour

He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 2nd, 2016 by Atria Books
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo
Please note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review as part of the book tour.

Twenty-eight-year-old Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a bottle of Xanax and a handle of Maker’s Mark, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers secrets in the childhood lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man who Celine herself claimed would be her ruin.

 On the hunt for answers that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

This was the first K.A. Tucker book that I have read. I know that Kaley over at Books Etc loves her, so when I had the opportunity to read He Will Be My Ruin for review I took it eagerly!

When Maggie comes back to New York to look after Celine’s things, she gets a glimpse of sides of Celine she never knew. As she digs deeper, she becomes more and more convinced that something isn’t right. There is no way that Celine would have killed herself, and Maggie wants to prove it. 

Maggie’s investigation leads her down a dangerous path as she searches for the truth. This thriller explores relationships and secrets. It begs the question, how well can you really know someone? People have so many facets–and some of them they’d do anything to hide. 

With twists and turns, thrills and romance, K.A. Tucker weaves a mystery that is entertaining, engrossing, and thought-provoking. It kept me guessing and turning the pages. Although I would have liked a less convoluted ending, this one was still pretty good. If you love a good thriller, give this one a go! 

Storyline B+
Structure/Execution A-
Characters A-
Writing A-
Conclusion B
Enjoyment B+

Black Apple: Residential Schools and One Girl’s Search for Identity | A Review

Black Apple by Joan Crate

Historical Fiction
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Simon & Schuster 
The idea of reviewing this book is giving me heebie-jeebies. It covers such a sensitive and complex topic. I must start this by saying my review here is not to be seen as any sort of commentary on this part of Canadian history. That is, other than the fact that it was horrible. These are my thoughts on this book.
I’m not really sure what I expected this book to be, but it’s a thoughtful bildungsroman set in Canada when residential schools were still functioning. It’s the story of a young Blackfoot girl growing up, coming into her own, and finding a place to belong. This story is about humanity and choices. It’s about one girl’s journey to reclaim herself; her search for identity when her own was stripped away from her.

 The main character in Black Apple is an indigenous girl named Sinopaki. When she is torn from her family and sent to St. Mark’s Residential School for Girls, her name is changed to Rose Marie. All indigenous names were changed to Christian ones.
During Sinopaki/Rose Marie’s childhood, the tone of the book reminded me of Jane Eyre and Jane’s time at Lowood School for Girls. Here, Rose Marie, much like Jane, is functionally an orphan—though not technically one. The girls are treated in much the same manner—they are abused both physically and psychologically. They are not really treated as humans because they are children. But in addition to this in Rose’s case, she is also treated as less than because she is “Indian.”
In her afterward, Joan Crate says: “I wanted to explore the psychology of those who worked at the schools, often well-meaning individuals whose sense of religious, cultural, and/or racial superiority allowed them to think of their service as a personal sacrifice for the greater good, one for which they were neither adequately compensated by the government nor admired by their charges, the result sometimes being acts of cruelty and depravity of which their younger selves would never have believed their older selves capable.” She does this through Mother Grace, the headmistress of St. Mark’s.
This is not a simple thing. You cannot just point the finger at nuns and be like, the nuns were evil and did this horrible thing and it’s all their fault! This was a system-wide failure. It was the government, it was society, and it was, yes, the Catholic Church. There is, however, no oneparty, no one individual to blame. We all share this blame, and this terrible legacy. And Crate explores this well.
At St. Mark’s, there are many characters who have both good and bad qualities. Ingrained in all those who work there is a superiority that they have been brought up in. They truly think that this is the way to “civilize” the “Indians” and bring them the saving grace of the Lord. They often seem to forget, however, to actually show any grace to these children. Some, of course, do—on occasion. They aren’t all bad. This can be seen in Sister Cilla and, at times, Mother Grace. But they were still a part of a horrible thing and let their own hubris, their own “vocation,” their own sense of worth, keep this travesty going. Many, like Mother Grace, did not want this, their life’s work, to come to nothing. I can feel for them in that. However, there are things that are more important than our own sense of a job well done. Things like kindness and justice.
From my point of view, I felt that Crate gave the issues faced in this book adequate complexity. I liked the way she explored the system behind the schools when she wrote from Mother Grace’s perspective. This is the life Mother Grace knew. This is the job she was given. The nuns at St. Mark’s were cogs in the wheel of this great inhumanity.
I thought it was neat as well how Crate wove in details of Blackfoot beliefs throughout the story. We see in Rose Marie their beliefs in spirits and their approach to the afterlife. I liked the way that Crate brought this element in as something that was actually happening. She did not tell us about it but rather showed us in the ghosts that Rose Marie would see.
There were many things about this book that broke my heart, but one that stuck with me is Rose Marie’s sense of not belonging anywhere. Many people her age go through a similar feeling and seek to “find themselves,” but hers was so much deeper than that. She had a place she belonged, and then she was torn from it. She was given another place to belong, but when she tried it outside the walls of St. Mark’s, she found again that she didn’t fit there either. There was no place left for her. She straddled two cultures, and didn’t seem to belong to either. At the school, they were taught that their culture, their language, their way of life was something to be hated. But they weren’t really given another option. They would be later tossed from the school disillusioned, with no place they fit. 
This is a tough thing to talk about. I’m a white Canadian woman. I don’t know the deep hurt that is still felt throughout the indigenous community. I don’t know how those who experience that would feel about this book. I know only what I, and my less-than-adequate knowledge of this time, feel. This novel, while interesting and thought-provoking, is just that—a novel. I must remind myself that this is a sensitive and very real topic with more layers than one novel can provide. It has, however, opened my eyes further to this topic. It has made me want to learn more about this time in Canada’s checkered past. We can’t just whisper about it behind closed doors. That’s how history ends up repeating itself.
It’s important that we don’t hold this book up as something more than it is. This is not a history book toting facts. This is a fictitious tale. For those of us who do not have immediate knowledge of the residential school system, we have to make sure that we don’t count this as a history lesson. For that, it’s only an introduction. This time period is a vessel through which the author explores the human condition and Sinopaki’s search for identity.
As a white Canadian woman without much knowledge of indigenous history or culture, I can’t speak to this book’s accuracy or sensitivity. However, as a human, I found this book to be a compelling coming-of-age story. It broke my heart. Many times.
If you like character-driven bildungsromans in which the coming of age is steeped in adversity and a strong need for identity, check this one out.

For more information on Residential Schools and conversation happening around them today, check out the TRC website.
Storyline B
Structure/Execution B+
Characters B+
Writing B+
Conclusion B
Enjoyment B+

Feminism & Punk Rock | Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

Hardcover, 244 pages
Published October 27th, 2015 by Riverhead Books
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

All we ever wanted was just to play songs and shows that mattered to people, that mattered to us. Music that summed up the messiness of life, that mitigated that nagging fear of hopelessness, loneliness and death.

Before I read this book, I didn’t know that much about Carrie Brownstein. I, of course, know her from the hilarious show Portlandia, but I hadn’t heard of the punk band Sleater-Kinney before. I really love Portlandia so when I had the chance, I was eager to learn more about Ms. Brownstein.

Carrie starts by telling us about her bumpy childhood and the relationships she has with her family members. She paints a picture of an endearing girl, unsure of herself, troubled not only by teenage angst, but by a disease that plagued her mother. In these times, she would turn to music and comedy.

When she moves on to her time in university, she begins to delve deeper into her love of music. This was the early 90s and the heyday of the Riot Grrrl punk movement. Carrie was in the pacific northwest of the US and was in the epicentre of a lot of this music at the time. The way she talks about it makes you feel like you are right there with her, alongside her as she takes part in this music evolution.

Carrie is an amazing writer. She gets to the heart of what it’s like to want to do something that matters, to express yourself, be an artist. She speaks honestly of trouble, loss, self-doubt, friendship, love, music, and everything in between. Her memoir is relatable, evocative, and totally engrossing. She’s a very intelligent woman and it shows.

Though I came to know Carrie through her humour, there’s not much of that in this book. If you’re looking for laughs, this isn’t the place. But if you’re looking for a well written, insightful memoir-meets-cultural-history, you’ll love this.

The Latest from Amy Zhang | This is Where the World Ends

This is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang

Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 22, 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Note: An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

From the publisher:

Janie and Micah, Micah and Janie. That’s how it’s been ever since elementary school, when Janie Vivien moved next door. Janie says Micah is everything she is not. Where Micah is shy, Janie is outgoing. Where Micah loves music, Janie loves art. It’s the perfect friendship—as long as no one finds out about it. But then Janie goes missing and everything Micah thought he knew about his best friend is colored with doubt.

This books reminds me of a mixture of AS King, John Green, and Jennifer Niven (All the Bright Places).

 Janie seemed like your typical manic pixie dream girl. While this trope seems to be played out and a little annoying (to me anyway), I think it stems from mental illness—at least in this case. I think Janie is probably bipolar, or something along those lines. She has really high highs, and really low lows. She latches on to anything that is beautiful. She has her head in the clouds. She’s a dreamer.
Micah is Janie’s childhood best friend, the boy next door. And Micah is obviously in love with her. He will do anything for her.
The story is told from both of their perspectives, but on different timelines. When it’s Micah’s perspective, it’s present day. Janie is gone, but we don’t know where and neither does Micah. We know there was a party and a fire, but we don’t know much else. Micah was there, but something happened to him. He injured his head and has no memory of the event and has trouble forming new memories now. When we read from Janie’s perspective, it’s from before the night of the party and leads up to it.
As far as the characters go, I’m still not sure about them. Janie and Micah have been friends forever, but Janie likes to keep him separate from her life at school. She doesn’t want anyone to know that they are friends. She is a serious compartmentalizer. Janie has an intoxicating and addictive personality—she’s someone you love to be around. But she uses people. She uses Micah. She doesn’t seem to think that is what she is doing, though. She has everything squared neatly away in their boxes.
Micah and Janie are both naïve. They are so young. They think they are invincible and the world is their oyster. This book is the story of both their lives and their relationship slowly unravelling.
I flew through this book. The writing is seriously beautiful. The fact that I compare it to AS King’s is the highest compliment that I can pay. Although I really liked the writing, the characterization of Janie and Micah’s relationship often got on my nerves. Oftentimes, I found this book was a little too much for me. However, on the whole I did enjoy it.

Storyline B
Structure/Execution B
Characters B-
Writing A
Conclusion B
Enjoyment B
Overall Rating: B

Amber Smith’s Amazing Debut Novel | The Way I Used to Be

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith


Young Adult Realistic Fiction
384 pages
Published March 22, 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Goodreads | Amazon | Indigo
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
From the publisher:

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes. 

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be. 

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year.

This book was both easy to read, and incredibly hard. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. I was drawn in so totally, and so immediately.

Eden starts off as this completely innocent, sweet fourteen-year-old. Something terrible happens, and she has to grow up so quickly. She’s confused, hurt, silenced. She wants to tell someone; she really really does. But as each moment slips by without her telling, it gets harder and harder to do. So she just doesn’t.
She does everything she can to regain control of herself and her life—or what she thinks will do that. It’s heartbreaking to go through this journey with her knowing that there is nothing you can do. You just want to hug her and get the people around her to open their damn eyes. But it’s not their fault. It’s not her fault. It’s his fault.
Eden is a very well crafted character. You feel for her, you get to know her, you see the way she pushes everyone away. You see how she evolves, and how she becomes who she becomes. You see her there beneath the emotional scar tissue.
This story is beautifully told. I liked the way that it’s broken up into segments—Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. You see how Eden evolves and the lasting consequences that night has on her. How the hurt just keeps building and building. It was a great way to view Eden’s growth.
I’ve read a few YA books over the last year about sexual assault and the impact of rape culture. There seem to be more coming out lately, and I think that’s a really good thing. These are stories that need to be told. We need to have our eyes opened, our hearts ripped out, until we can stop this from being such a prevalent issue in the real world. You know someone like Eden. Whether you realize it or not. How many more Edens do there have to be before we do something?
Not only does this book cover the difficult topic of rape, but it deals with slut-shaming, too. People who didn’t really know her wanted to put her in a box, explain her away. They put labels on her. Slut. Whore. Bitch. They knew nothing about her and what she was going through, but they had to explain her. This was hard for Eden. At first. But then those names added an easy cover for her. She could hide behind them. See? No one made her this way. She wants to be this way. She just doesn’t care. It’s so sad because as soon as these names are slapped on her, no one really sees her anymore. She was just Eden McSlutty. That’s who she is, all she is.
Although it’s hard to get through, we don’t just see Eden crashing and burning. We see her rising from the ashes, too.
Another thing I really appreciated about this book is that Eden isn’t “saved” by a romance. No one can truly “save” her but herself. Also, huge kudos to Smith for making me care about Eden so damn much.
A seriously amazing book. I cried really hard. I recommend this to all the humans in all the places. (Well, 14 and up.)