logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: abusive-relationships
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-25 03:29
Review: Burned (Burned #1) by Ellen Hopkins
Burned - Ellen Hopkins

Quick review for a quick read that I picked up from my library's audio collection. Powerful and really wonderful character exploration, which is typical of Ellen Hopkins's books. Pattyn is a young woman living in a tightly knit religious community and abusive household. She strongly laments her inability to grow as a young woman - in relationships, in asserting herself among other things - as well as watching her mother being subjected to her father's fists. After a series of incidents in which she acts out, she's sent to live with her aunt and begins to know what it means to have a better life for herself, including being valued in a romantic relationship with her S.O. (Ethan). In the end, she's not prepared to return to the household that cast her out, yet she never really wanted to leave completely behind, and things only turn for the worst after that point. I'll admit it hit me like a punch to a gut and I couldn't shake the emotional upheaval it left within me long after turning the final page.

"Burned", like the other books of Hopkins I've read, went down so smoothly and quick for the overarching read - I really enjoyed the audio narration of the novel as well as the poetic form she uses to tell Pattyn's story. She captures Pattyn's thoughts, questions, fears, uncertainty, and emotion to the teeth, and I liked being able to follow her throughout. I thought her fears and concerns were front and center, making me feel her struggle, but I think there were opportunities of depth and debate (particularly around the religious community concerns, since Pattyn lives in a Mormon household) that were missed. I definitely look forward to reading the next novel in this series, though the cliffhanger ending makes me all the more anxious to get to it as soon as possible.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-04 01:31
Review: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
Lock and Key - Sarah Dessen

Initial reaction: I really enjoyed this story by Sarah Dessen (and ended up buying it on a spontaneous trip to Barnes and Noble). The key metaphor throughout the book really resonated with me and I enjoyed reading the narrative through Ruby's voice. Though I'd probably give this book 3.5 stars overall because there were certain emotional moments that I think would've hit home more if they'd been given more room to be showcased.

Full review:

Sarah Dessen does such a great job getting into the lives of her characters, it's hard not to be drawn into their experiences regardless of the myriad of circumstances they might find themselves within. "Lock and Key" proves no exception to that, though I'll admit I kept feeling even as I finished the novel that I wanted to sink my teeth into the conflict and lives of the characters just a little bit more. But only a little, because it still held my attention and interest through the entire story.

Ruby is a young woman who's been on the run with her mother for a significant part of her life. There used to be a time when Ruby shared a close bond with her sister Cora despite her mother's flights of fancy and abrasiveness. When Cora moves off to college, Ruby thinks the bond is broken as she's forgotten them entirely. Ruby doesn't see this as a problem, she's used to taking care of herself and having to do things for herself and her mother, yet it takes the intervention of a landlord and some dire circumstances (including a stretch in which Ruby's mother doesn't return to their fractured home) to necessitate Ruby being taken into custody and sent away to live with Cora, long thought lost. Ruby isn't exactly welcoming to the change. She's close to being 18, ready to run away at a moment's notice. But she realizes that the environment around her might be the key to her opening up and finding roots in her life after all.

I really enjoyed reading from Ruby's perspective. She can be funny and spontaneous, but I think seeing her character grow throughout the novel brought the most rewarding experience for me throughout this work. She really makes you feel for her situation and I understood why she acted the way she did in the beginnings of the book. I also liked the fact that she came to see on her own terms why her own actions and missteps were wrong, not just from her interactions with the other characters in the book, but from observing the lives of the other characters situations (i.e. Nate's, whose circumstances hit home with me as well) and how they mirrored to her own. The other characters were great to watch unfold in the overarching story as well. I definitely liked the relationship between Ruby and Cora (heck, I would've loved more of those moments), and Nate and Ruby's relationship had some great moments as well. Dessen tackled a lot of difficult issues in this book, yet there were some moments that felt summarized and lacked as much emotional connectivity as some of her other books (i.e. "Dreamland" and "The Truth About Forever") that I was hoping for. I felt like I couldn't really sink my teeth into the experience despite the coming to terms for the characters. The key metaphor carried throughout the book was a good one, and I liked how it came full circle in the end.

It's a book of Dessen's I enjoyed - probably not my favorite in her bibliography, but still a memorable one and well worth reading.

Overall rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-18 16:35
Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Allegedly - Tiffany D. Jackson

Initial reaction: Long review coming probably sometime tomorrow when I can meditate on my end thoughts on the novel, which are complex and conflicted. This...may not be a book for everyone to read.

This book had me emotionally shaken and vexed on so many levels, that I don't even know where to begin. *sighs* I will say - to the narrative's credit - that it's well written, emotionally raw, and Mary's experiences come across as very true to life experiences for incarcerated minority youth for much of the book (not all of it, but a good portion). Tiffany Jackson gets the emotional intimacy and connection of characterizations for this book spot on. The tension in this book is so palpable that I found myself caught between putting the book down and picking it back up eager to read what happens in Mary's overarching case. It's a dark read and thought provoking in many places. At first I thought that this narrative would be something akin to reading the narrative "Push" by Sapphire, because the tone of the narrative felt like that to start (and interestingly enough, the narrative mentions Mary reading it at one point.) The aforementioned book was a rough read for me on its own but I appreciated it because of the real horrors and story told in that vein. This book doesn't go in that direction, but the emotional/physical abuse and fear that Mary endures in places is rage inducing and makes you feel for the character.

If you're sensing a lingering "but" to those notations, you would be hitting the needlepoint spot on. I sincerely want to pretend that ending (and certain events close to the ending) doesn't exist. While I don't mind having the rug pulled out from under me in an apt mystery/thriller, this didn't feel like that kind of story for much of the narrative. At the very least, one would think at this ending "Wait...there's an emotional mismatch here - that really didn't fit the rest of the tone of the story. Even if there were multiple unreliable characters here (and there are: fair warning without delving into too many spoilers), it doesn't make sense to go that direction because the story already had a compelling story in one tone. It reveals a pretty gruesome but notable reality for an underrepresented population."

At worst? This book does need a TW on several counts: several notations of homophobia (though one could argue that its influenced by the prejudices of the observed characters), body/sexual shaming (see previous notation), rape/complicit accessory rape/statutory rape (oh, I have a soapbox coming on this very subject matter on so. many. levels.), animal cruelty and dismemberment (I had to stop reading for a bit after that scene because I wasn't expecting it), among other things.

So, yeah, complex emotions. :(

Full review:

My initial rating upon finishing this book was 4 stars, and looks like I'm going to take it down to 3.5 because...MASSIVE caveats. There are brilliant moments in the narrative that really tugged at my heartstrings. I think the essence of Mary's story is true to the brutality that many young people of color experience in incarceration, juvenile pregnancy, power and abuse in the correctional system, power and abuse in personal relationships, gaslighting, among other things. It's true to life on some things, but ultimately not in others, and particularly with the progression up through the ending, this is a mature YA (I question it being YA, but I think teens could still read this and get something out of it) dark horror/thriller.

At first I thought that this was something that abruptly changed for the tone in the ending and I thought "Wait a minute, I wish that the book hadn't gone in that direction, because it was so good establishing what Mary's experiences were and illuminating some tough realities in characters who are like her." But the more I looked back through the story, the more I realized that it actually had foreshadowed this dark and foreboding tone; every single character in this narrative is one you can't trust on the surface because of the ultimate truths that are revealed about them as the narrative presses forward. It's one big nightmare that while I don't always agree with how it used elements to its execution, it also provides a space where I'm thinking about the narrative complexities and points long after I put the book down.

The baseline for this story has Mary as a 15/16 year old young black woman convicted in a juvenile home for troubled youth up until the age of 19. She's accused of killing a white infant which has a ton of media coverage and accounts close to Mary's case (which are brilliantly provided in snippets throughout the text, and it gives the narrative an authentic and complex feel). She's struggling to try to make a better life for herself, trying to get the opportunity to take the SAT, getting an education, confronting what seems to be PTSD surrounding details of the case that she's shut out because she doesn't feel like she has a voice or that people will believe her about what *actually* happened. Things become more complicated when Mary realizes that she's pregnant and the system will take away her unborn child if she doesn't say/do something. Hence begins the ball rolling as Mary struggles through hostile and demeaning/neglectful oversight, stern judgment from superiors and peers, a complete lack of support from her mother (her mother's blind religious hypocrisy and self-indulgence had me seeing red through the entire narrative, I thought in my mind "I've read/known about people who have done this to their children, and I can't deal because they are freaking horrible.") among other things to essentially get out of this entire ordeal. It creates sympathy for Mary's situation while holding back pieces of the actual case, revealing them in snippets as the story progresses.

Mary's baby father, Ted, is 18/19, at first appears supportive of Mary's efforts to get out of the system and be with her for the sake of being with her. Note I emphasize "appears", because once the truth about Ted's past actions comes across, it's...messed up. It's messed up enough that his relationship with her was statutory rape to begin with, but I was legit raging and had to put the book down for a time because of what's revealed about him in further spells. MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.

No one can tell me to have sympathy for a guy incarcerated because he was complicit in holding down a young woman by her arms to be raped several times. Regardless if he was scared, regardless whether he "let her go", even if he didn't rape her himself, it's clear he was in denial about doing anything wrong and making the excuse he was "young" when it happened. Mary sees the hypocrisy in this and is sickened by it in spells, but exhibits denial about it in others - which angered me. Further reveals of Ted's character showcase him getting extra money by pocketing part of the money that a woman named Letitcia gets from her relationships and him bumming off from others relationships - which Mary uncovers going to visit him. I'm legit horrified by this (as is Mary). Mary attempts to get away from him even on that measure, but then goes back to being in denial about his actions/demeanor in spells. One could probably argue that Mary's demeanor was in constant denial about many, many things because the emotional weight of all that she endures, but this was something that messed me up reading this story.

(spoiler show)



So ultimately speaking, Ted can screw right off as far as I'm concerned. The horrifying part of this book in many notations is that it feels so vivid and realistic that I could actually see it happening from Mary's viewpoint, particularly with the way she wrestles with her reality and relationships more often times than not. I can see it even it there are details which aren't as ironed out as smoothly as they could've been. I think that's one of the things that sucked me into the story: that I believed it was Mary's experience and her voice is attuned to all the people she's surrounded by, fatal flaws and all. She's a compelling narrator, and I definitely felt for her and for many of the characters in the narrative. Hence when I finished "Allegedly", I felt like I could give it credit for the strong assertions, strong protagonist, and illumination of many different measures in a realistic way.

But at the same time, I feel like that even with knowing the narrative foreshadowed these revelations with the characters and case in itself, the transition and translation of that wasn't as strong as it should've been. So I've asked myself "Is this a 4 star read, is this a 3 star read? I'm going back and forth about it because as much as I liked the emotional resonance in it, I didn't like elements within it and how they were used."

So in the end, it's a strong 3.5 star read for me, and I'd encourage others to read this for the strong themes and character resonance, but be warned that the subject matters are mature and triggering.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-10-09 20:54
Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
It Ends with Us: A Novel - Colleen Hoover

Initial reaction: So now when people ask me my favorite book from Colleen Hoover, without hesitation, I'll point to this book. It wasn't a perfect portrayal, but it was honest, raw, and an emotional read. I loved Lily's growth through the narrative. I wish that Atlas had more focus in the narrative though.

Full review:

Where to begin with reflecting about this book? I'll admit "It Ends With Us" gave me feels that I wasn't expecting to have through the read. Given the story it chooses to show (without spoiling too much about the experience), it makes sense. In addition to Hoover's evocative writing, I think what worked for this book most for me was the development of every single one of the characters and the multidimensional nature of the conflicts presented in the narrative. I don't think Hoover's other narratives have as much of the same kind of raw honesty, maturity, or character growth as this one did. That's what made it more believable for me personally.

Lily Bloom is a young business woman who owns her own flower shop and has grown up with a lot of emotional turmoil. When we meet Lily in the story, she's on the rooftop of a neighborhood building wrestling over her role in her father's funeral. She meets a neurosurgeon named Ryle with whom she shares a connection one fateful night and progressively develops over time (while seemingly quick, it still felt progressive enough to me where I could actually see the character interaction and focus). The story trades spaces back and forth between Lily's present relationship with Ryle and her childhood love Atlas, a homeless boy she shared first times with and gradually grew apart from due to various events. But as Lily's present and past collide in some horrible ways, it forces her to make tough decisions as to the relationships she's in and how it mirrors events and relationships in her past. She really grapples with this and I appreciated seeing her weigh the balance of this - her past, her present, her future. She felt like a multi-dimensional character to me and I rooted for her in the scheme of her relationships and push to make a better life for herself. Heck, I could say this about all the characters in this book, even the ones I didn't care for in terms of their personalities or fatal flaws. I liked the character connections (Lily's relationship with her mother and Ryle's sister were great to read. Even the brief exchanges we got from Lily meeting Atlas's friends as she waited for him to return home held my attention.)

At first I was thinking this book would potentially be a love triangle with a steady burn, but turns out that wasn't the case at all, and I appreciated the way the book handled the clashes of past and present with respect to Ryle and Atlas's exchanges with Lily in a mature way that didn't feel like it was stretching out the tension just for the sake of doing so. I felt more connected to the "crap hitting the fan" moments in this book because they were true to the situations and present realities of the characters rather than just feeling like the conflict was thrown in at the last moment to drive a wedge or create conflict among the characters.

As rough of a character as Ryle was (he has more issues than I care to say - also because of due spoilers), I thought his subsequent development and relationship as portrayed in the novel was rather solid and complex, not simply just complicated. There were parts where I think the narrative could've expounded on his previous experiences, but considering this narrative was Lily's story to tell and the focus remaining on her, I could accept that. I could accept myself thinking that he was full of shit and horrible in terms of the way he treated Lily while also knowing that he wasn't just a singular dimensional character - he was very realistically portrayed as was Lily's sentiments for/about him. When she cared for him, I could see it and when she unleashed her anger on him, I could stand there and rally alongside her as she did so. Atlas had a huge role in Lily's past, but the narrative was limited in that could only see bits of his role in the present. Atlas has been the only male protagonist of Hoover's to date that I could actually get behind - I liked him a lot, even with the brief moments we see him. People usually don't give enough credit to beta males in fiction, especially romance fiction, and that freaking saddens me. His role in this story shouldn't be diminished just because he isn't - say - Ryle's personality type, who has more in common with most of Hoover's previously crafted main male characters. His role also broke the mold in that he truly had more of a supporting role in the narrative than Lily's. He wasn't a knight in shining armor, he wasn't this beacon who swooped in at the most convenient time to defend Lily's honor or some such, he was there to support her when she needed him. Plus, it's not as if he's a perfect character - I appreciated seeing his flaws, background, and really felt for him in some of the narrative's more emotional turns. I just wish he could've been featured a little more, especially as an adult.

Overall, hands down my favorite Hoover novel to date and I honestly hope she doesn't hesitate to explore more emotionally rough narratives like this. It's honestly a breath of fresh air in a category where some of the stories/character types can feel like they're cut from the same page. Usually stepping away from that kind of typing means giving room to explore character emotions and situations in more detail, and that can be challenging, but for me as a reader - I honestly feel that gives more meaning and reward for the reading experience - and I appreciate that she did that here. Also: excellent audio reading from Olivia Song - I really liked her character voices and I felt she really captured Lily's character and emotional resonance spot on.

Overall score: 4.5/5 stars.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-07-26 02:36
Review: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Exit, Pursued by a Bear - E.K. Johnston

Initial reaction: I am most definitely in the minority of opinions surrounding this book. Having said that, "Exit, Pursued by a Bear" definitely has its heart in the right place and I think had the intention of being an inspiring read with a protagonist who, in the aftermath of her rape, faces life with much conviction and purpose to not allow the experience to define her or what she wants. That's awesome, I have no contention to that since every person's experience with coping with the aftermath of being raped is different.

What I did have contention with is the fact this narrative seems to gloss over some really important issues that occur with Hermione's experience. Plus, one does not need to convey strength or purpose in the aftermath of a horrific event by putting down other reactions - even measures of grief - to such events. There's no one definition of "normal" or "strength" when it comes to discussions of experiences like this, and I feel like the narrative contradicted itself on a number of occasions. Unfortunate, because I think this book could've been even more of a powerhouse for impact in detailing the individual experience of this character. *sighs*

Full review:

"Exit, Pursuit by a Bear" is a loosely based reimaging of Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale" (more like some characters and references are made to the original play, but it's really its own story. "Exit, pursued by a bear" remains one of my favorite turns of phrase for stage direction though from Shakespeare's plays). Hermione is a young woman who is the peppy, energetic leader of her cheerleading squad. She seems to have an attentive (if a bit pushy) boyfriend, great friends and family surrounding her. Things take a fateful turn after one night when Hermione is drugged and raped - left by a nearby lake at the camp in which her team's competition takes place. She has no memory of what was done to her, and while she has something of a quirky personality and ability to distance herself from horrible things, she fights against having her life defined and maligned by her rape and the spiral of events that follow in the aftermath of it. It really has more ties to Shakespeare rather than Veronica Mars, and I'm thinking the only reason the Veronica Mars comparison comes about has to do with a very pertinent plot point that was a part of the series and Veronica's experiences (and how she was able to open up about it). People who have seen the series probably know the plot point I'm discussing, but Veronica Mars (as a series) had far more time and care taken to develop that conflict than this book chose to delve into. So it's a very odd comparison, to be quite honest.

I was really taken into the story to begin with. I liked Hermione's confident personality, I liked the descriptions of the cheerleading and I loved the supportive friendship between Hermione and Polly. But after a certain point, the quality of this book took a very sharp decline and decided to rush things to heck and back, particularly dealing with some of the repercussions and events that happened after Hermione's rape. I was left disappointed by how the narrative chose to deal with the overarching conflict surrounding Hermione's rape - on numerous levels - and even found myself offended by the suggestions made by the narrative in this measure.

No two people have the same experience and dealings with the aftermath of rape. It's wrong for people to try to box reactions as to how someone will feel after any form of sexual assault. Some may feel more hampered by the weight of their grief, sending them into a spiral from which they may not recover from considering they know their rapist quite well (see Amber Smith's "The Way I Used to Be"). Some may know their rapist and gradually come to terms with acknowledging that not only it happened to them but they find a way to reveal that to their family, friends, loved ones after much hardship (see Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak" or Courtney C. Stevens "Almost Normal"), some may find themselves the subject of ridicule among their peers and community members from the harmful effects of rape culture (See Aaron Hartzler's "What We Saw", Alina Klein's "Rape Girl", Courtney Summers' "All the Rage" and "Some Girls Are"). There are also narratives that deal with childhood sexual abuse (Barry Lyga's "Boy Toy" and Elizabeth Scott's "Living Dead Girl.") There are also rape narratives that deal with what happens when a friend or family member is accused of rape and the complex emotions that come with recognizing the reality of that (Jenny Downham's "You Against Me").

But in addition to those narratives (notice I'm being inclusive and not excluding these different types of stories, many of these cross in focus if you find yourself perusing the narratives), you may also have a scenario where a young woman makes an attempt to cope with the aftermath of her rape by pushing forward against the pain and reaffirming the things that maker her life worthwhile - by focusing on things that help her keep control of the things she wants her life to be about against the pushback of others who seek to define and demean her experiences. By establishing control over the things she knows, loves and can make sense of. This should've been the story of "Exit, Pursued by a Bear" - at least that's what it seems to aim for. There were places in the narrative where I distinctly saw this and thought it worked for the novel. Sadly though, this narrative actually worked more against that focus than anything else, and there are moments when I was truly taken aback by how it plays into harmful narratives that actually demean those who are coping in the aftermath of sexual assault. The reason I say this is because there are times when Hermione subtly undermines those who feel grief or "fall apart". In that the book sends mixed messages - if you're willing to accept that people think and feel differently in the aftermath of rape and sexual assault, then why establish such a stringent definition of the push towards "normal"? Why diminish the experiences of people who DO fall apart after this experience? To me - it really doesn't make sense.

Instead of establishing Hermione's experiences as being worthwhile in itself and as a part of the different narratives of rape/SA survivors, it instead undermines the myriad of narratives by creating an ideal or best scenario where the conflicts aren't necessarily dealt with, where Hermione's struggles aren't necessarily dimensional for the way they're presented. It's one thing to consider weighing the balance of her emotions at times (which this narrative does considering she doesn't remember the rape, but she still feels the weight of grief in places), but it's another to glide past them by not having her really think about them and recognize the weight they have. Sure, she's doing what she feels is best for her, but it doesn't fully take on the weights and pushes past them without so much in the measure of recognition.

I think "Exit, Pursued by a Bear" is worth reading providing another narrative voice and experience in the aftermath of rape/SA, but I feel disappointed by the way the narrative started off with promise only to really shortchange the discussion by the nature of its presentation. I feel like it could've been a stronger, deeper, and more inclusive narrative in the aftermath of reading it.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?