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Was given an ARC from Netgalley for an honest review.
Now this isn't something I usually would pick out to read, but for some reason I was drawn to it. I must tell you, this book has some serious bullying in it; and, I don't mean for the faint of heart. The first chapter starts off with a group of girls 'cleansing' another girl because of her past sins. I was in shock that the author used the religion as a way for the bullies to justify their actions. It gives you a bad taste in your mouth for anyone that is Christian and from Texas.
Ryan is 1 of 3 daughters. Kelsey, Ryan and McKenzie. They all originally lived in Chicago in a well off area. Their father lost his job and because of that, the family had to move to Texas. Each of the girls left something behind back in Illinois - Kelsey, her boyfriend; Ryan, her art school; and McKenzie, her gymnastics. The sisters all have a different feeling regarding the move and those emotions are shown through their interaction and dialogue.
Characters with Spoilers
The two protagonists, Bryce and Ryan, are dealing with some HEAVY stuff. It is hard to read some parts because of the emotional pain the two are going through internally. Here is a list of issues:
Ryan is going through the transition of moving from Chicago because of what happened to her. She was date raped. Then she was bullied so bad that she had to have cosmetic surgery. I couldn’t believe what those girls did to her. They took scouring pad and began washing her saying, “We discovered you’ve been a naughty girl… […]…I’m talking about abusing the temple God gave you. You’ve abused and shamed your body with sex and drugs…[…]… You are soiled by the workings of the devil! […]… You are evil and unclean.”
I couldn’t believe what these girls did. Who does that? Who would torture someone because of their past sins? I mean I am not going to go all religious on you all, even though I am a religious person, but I was so angry and discussed with those girls.
Because of what the girls do to her this is what Ryan thinks of herself.
"She had been the one excited to move to Hillside, who couldn't wait to start a new life at a new school. It seemed like such a good plan. Leave her old life behind, reinvent herself, become who she wanted to be. How had it all gone so wrong? She leaned her head into the seat. She'd tried so hard to fit in, to be one of them. Now she was back to ground zero. No friends, And worse, she was left looking like a monster. Was this the punishment for her past - her scarlet letter?"
Who wants to be a Hester Sue? The poor girl never had a true chance. We find out near the end who told the bullies about Ryan's past. It was an emotional moment, but her and the 'person' made amends.
Bryce deals with his own form of grief over the loss of his sister. His sister was driving, her and her friends, when she got a text message. She answered it. I think it is good to show youth the effects death can have on loved ones because of texting while driving.
"Answering that text had forever altered three families. Had destroyed his mom. He didn't want to be angry with her. He loved her. Why did she have to pick up that damn phone?"
Bryce’s mom has been in a complete depression ever since the accident. She even tries to kill herself. It was such a powerful scene, Bryce walking in on his mother with a gun in her hand.
A large positive of the book is the formation of a Teens Against Violence. The teacher that is helping over see the group and its formation said, "More than that. Abuse comes in all forms. Controlling behavior doesn't just occur between dating couples - friends can abuse each other as well."
The climactic moment in the book is when Ryan has to make a speech at her high school assemble. She ends up telling the story of her date rape. Ryan wasn't planning on sharing it with the student body, but she felt the need to express what had happened to her. I think it was such a strong and positive show of courage for a teen girl to do that.
I think it is a good thing more books today are talking about serious issues and incorporating it into an interesting story. I hope that teens that read this book recognize that there are dangers everywhere and if they don't pay attention they can get hurt or hurt others.
Serious bullying. Making-out, physical abuse, neglect, depression, death, mild swearing, date-rape discussion, attempted suicide.
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