I finished this book earlier this week and have delayed writing my review because I was so conflicted when I first completed it. Usually, when I allow myself to step away from a book and get some perspective on the story, it helps me to make up my mind about how I really feel about things. Unfortunately, I'm not any clearer now than I was when I finished it!
My mixed feelings don't concern the actual writing. As I've found in the past with Draw The Dark and Ashes, both by Ilsa J Bick, the writing was powerful. She creates another vivid character in Jenna Lord and Kathleen McInerney voiced her wonderfully. Some of the beautifully crafted language was slightly at odds with the structure as the book is meant to be a narration of events, by sixteen year old Jenna, into a dictaphone. However, if you allow yourself to suspend your disbelief a little, then this is no biggie.
My ambivalence is primarily caused by the subject matter. As you can probably guess from the blurb, the story is centred around the developing relationship between Jenna and her teacher.
"...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.)"
This part of the blurb sort of sums up my problem. I just don't know what to think about Jenna and Mitch's relationship! You might assume from the premise that Mitch is a monster or a predator, but he wasn't. Or at least, Jenna didn't think he was. The first person narrative works excellently here because Jenna might be honest, but that doesn't mean she's reliable.
I liked the book - I'm going to give it plenty of stars - but I liked it because of how brilliantly Bick's writing draws you in. I didn't like the story, I'll admit that, but I'm not sure you're meant to. I think it's one of those books where you read (or listen) in wide eyed horror. I found myself grimacing over much of the narration because I found it dark. But the really dark thing about the story is that, sometimes, I found myself rooting for them!
I think this is going to be a controversial book because of the YA audience. People will assume that young adults won't have the intelligence or the sophistication to understand that Jenna's narrative is biased. Maybe they'll see this book's message as one of hope for their own schoolgirl crushes or an endorsement for the old clichÃ????Ã???Ã??Ã?Â© that love can conquer all. In a way, this is true... but I think that any audience, young adult or not, has its dopes.
Overall, this was a fascinating, if disturbing, read. It's a book that you really need to read yourself before judging or making assumptions.show more
by Laura Williams