Author: Cheryl Rainfield
Source: Review copy from the author
Believe it or not, fifteen-year-old Kendra is actually in a better place than she was six months ago. Sure, she's in therapy and sure, she's cutting herself to let out the bottled-up pain. But six months ago, repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse began to rise to the surface . . . which is how she landed in therapy and started cutting in the first place.
But although he lurks in the shadows of every painting and sketch she creates, Kendra still can't remember the face of her abuser. Even attempting to do reduces her to terror. All she knows is that it was a trusted man in her childhood life. Worse yet, he's still around - somebody's leaving her notes and messages, warning her not to tell or he'll kill her.
The only sunny spots come from her relationship with a new girlfriend and the warm reception that her artwork, always derided by her artist mother, is beginning to garner from others. A new life is within Kendra's grasp, if only she can muster up the courage to discover and face the man who destroyed her old one.
Time: 0:17:13 (partial because I started reading this yesterday and wasn't done yet)
Why I Wanted to Read It: I'd been hearing about this book for some time. Cheryl is a Kidlitosphere pal and I knew it was a deeply personal story, drawn from her own experience. In fact, her arm is the scarred limb shown on the cover. When she emailed to offer me a review copy, I leapt at the chance, even though I knew it wasn't going to be a book full of hugs and puppies.
The good news is, this is definitely worth the read. Sometimes you get the "thinly veiled autobiography" feeling with books based on the author's experience, but Kendra felt real and alive to me, and I couldn't stop turning the pages to follow her slow blossoming, in spite of the pain that seethed under her skin. I did flip to the end to find out the identity of the abuser, because I'm terrible like that, and it was exactly who I thought it would be.
One of the things I appreciated was the portrayal of a family life that made the abuse possible. Her mother's willful ignorance and incredible self-involvement, plus her father's need to be at the center of the family's attention at all times, made it credible that nobody would have noticed what was going on and that Kendra would have thought so little of herself as to believe that she deserved the abuse, and that nobody would listen to her if she told.
I would have liked to see a little more from the time that the memories started to resurface, especially how the break-up with her first girlfriend affected or prompted them. I also thought the climax was unexpectedly dramatic for a book that had been all about the inner emotional journey up until that point. I did see the need for Kendra to face and conquer her abuser, so it worked in that way. It was just startling.
As I said, it's not a hugs and puppies kind of book. But it is a well-told and deeply affecting one, and the cutting aspect is included as just that, an aspect of the pain that Kendra is experiencing.