Author: Cheryl Rainfield
Format: Book (hardcover from library)
Genre: Contemporary YA
Synopsis: Kendra is a talented artist but behind ever painting of a happy face there is a hidden corner of pain lurking in the shadows, ready to strike. She's not exactly sure what happened to her when she was younger but she knows it was bad and her rapist is still out there, reminding her that the abuse hasn't truly ended. As Kendra struggles to find her strength her life threatens to crumble around her unless she can figure out the truth...
Intense isn't quite the right word for this book. It's more than that. It's an emotional punch that's hard to believe except somewhere deep inside you know that Kendra's situation is not unique.
Kendra is strong and talented 15 year old who treasures the things that make her feel safe and happy and tries to cope with everything that doesn't. Her biggest source of support is her therapist, Carolyn. But she can't be with Carolyn all the time. When she's not at therapy she has to deal with annoying classmates, a mom who won't get off her back about everything, and the emerging memories of a long personal history of sexual abuse. When it becomes too much for her Kendra turns to cutting, which is graphically but accurately described in one scene. Along with all of this, Kendra is also dealing with being a lesbian, which she accepts but her family does not.
There are a lot of issues in this book but they don't become overwhelming. It's refreshing to see that Kendra is comfortable with her sexuality even if her parents aren't. Despite all of her traumas Kendra handles herself very maturely. All of the characters in the book talk about their feelings directly and succinctly. Sometimes it's a little jarring because these are conversations that not most people will have in their lives. However, it's essential to the emotional heart of this novel. If Kendra wasn't able to share herself with the important players in her life then there would be nowhere for this story to go.
The whole time I was reading I was eager to find out if everything Kendra was experiencing and remembering was actually real. It kept me pushing forward, even as the impossible seemed to become more and more real. The chapters are short. This took a little getting used to. Usually when I get to the end of a chapter I feel like the scene is over and I close my eyes and open them up to find myself in another place. However, with this book I would close my eyes and open them in the new chapter and find myself in the same room. But the short chapters were necessary to take a break from the emotional punches that were all throughout the book.
The real gem of this novel is the sense of hope that rings true throughout Kendra's story. She never stops reaching out and striving for something better. I think that's very important in a book as heavy and dire as this book could be if there wasn't that sense that things could work out eventually.
The ending is fast paced and unexpected but not entirely surprising. Rainfield is not afraid to push the stakes higher and higher. Fortunately her characters and her writing can handle this incredibly emotional story.
This is a novel that makes you think about all the horrible things that can happen in the world and the different ways that people get through it. This is not a casual read but it's an important one. It goes quickly but doesn't leave your mind once your finished. I'm glad Rainfield included a list of websites in the back for further exploration because my mind is still spinning from everything that happened in this book.
If you're looking for something deep and fast paced and realistic and raw yet heartfelt and ultimately uplifting, this is a book you need to read.