Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.)
Jenna Lord's first sixteen years were not exactly a fairytale. Her father is a controlling psycho and her mother is a drunk. She used to count on her older brother—until he shipped off to Afghanistan. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire.
There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and we all shed tears for his innocent victim. (This is not one of those stories either.)
Mitch Anderson is many things: A dedicated teacher and coach. A caring husband. A man with a certain...magnetism.
And there are stories where it's hard to be sure who's a prince and who's a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after. (These are the most interesting stories of all.)
To be honest, when I first saw this book, I completely overlooked it on NetGalley. Then one day I saw it and thought "Holy crap, that's by Ilsa J. Bick! Obviously I have to read it." As I started the book, it swept me up immediately into its tangled web and didn't let go. This is one of those books that you wish you could skip out on work to read instead because it pulls you in and truly doesn't let you go--and then it leasves you gasping for air as you turn the last page as if you were the one drowning...
I'm beating around the bush. I know I am. I don't want to tell this story, Bob, and you know why? Because this is a fairy tale with teeth and claws, and here's what completely sucks: you're going to want black and white, Bob, right and wrong. i'm not sure I can give that to you. That's the problem with the truth. Sometimes the truth is ambiguous, or a really bad cliche.Gah! Nine pages in and Bick hits us with quote. I think this was the moment that I said, "WOW. This is gonna hurt." And really, it did. Every page turn brings you face to face with this thing that you don't want to think about--it's about the blurring of lines, the ambiguity, seeing both sides of a situation (even when you don't want to). It's about realizing that people are just people and people make mistakes. The main character, Jenna, is about as realistic as they come. She's had an intense and difficult life: she was badly burned in a house fire, her father is a disaster, her mother is a drunk, her brother is gone, and she's just gotten out of a psych ward (are you really surprised she ended up there?). As she starts a new school, she just wants to be "normal" but that seems to go out the window on day one. As her parents pull farther and farther away, Jenna seems to be drowning...until Mr. Anderson takes an interest in her well-being.
But this is the truth, Bob: I'm a liar.
I am lucky, a liar, a good girl, a princess, a thief--and a killer.
The truth is, Bob, that no matter how far or fast you go, the past always follows: an inky, faceless thing tacked to your shoes that only the harshest light can kill, and then just for those few moments when there is nothing but hte strongest fire from the brightest sun, breaking over your shoulders, burning that shadow--and your past--to ask.While Jenna is actually narrating her segments into a voice recorder, it reads very much like an epistolary novel with first person narration that often acknowledges the person she's talking to. Ms. Bick takes this format and molds it into the perfect avenue for telling this story. It becomes a perfect blend of present-tense dialogue and retrospective memories that pull you directly into Jenna's head.
The only problem I had with this book (and it was MINOR) was that Jenna goes from having virtually no freedom whatsoever (which seems a likely result of having been locked away in a psych ward) to having virtually no boundaries basically overnight. I realize that it is partially an example of just how much Jenna's parents have removed themselves from reality and her life, but it still felt like too much too fast. From nothing to car, cell phone, and virtual freedom? I'm just not sure about that.
Because if I could just stop the flow of the there or anywhere before that afternoon, the rest couldn't, wouldn't spin out. And then I wouldn't be here, in this emergency room--and neither, Bob, would you.Slight misgiving aside, this book was intense and amazing. Ilsa Bick has blurred the lines between monsters and victims, good and bad. If you're anything like me, you'll turn the final page gasping for breathe and astounded that a book could make you feel so much. There's just something about the raw emotion that Jenna expresses that makes you really think. I also feel like I should mention that this book requires a very open mind--open to possibilities that might upset you a little and motivations that you can't fully understand. I'm not sure that I've really been able to express how I felt about this book in this review...it seems a bit rambling...but regardless, if it catches your attention, definitely give it a shot because Ilsa J. Bick is a PRO.