“I have never heard a more eloquent silence.”
A noteworthy forerunner in the teen “Issues” subgenre, and one of the first to so directly confront rape.
This is an indisputably important book. It offered insight and acknowledgement on an all-too-frequent trauma, and some common mental consequences associated with it—managing to do so before “rape culture” became a household term. And it tackled the subject matter with a tact that didn’t intrude upon candor realistic to the age and experience of the main character. For that, I will forever applaud it.
The story is written in journal-like style, told solely from Melinda’s first-person POV. It is technically a quick read, though there are times it really drags and the plot itself stalls. One could argue that this is partially the point—the result of Melinda’s depression and attempts to work through her trauma on her own. But the excess of mundane details and uneventful daily routine descriptions don’t really propel the prose.
The writing is spare and simple. Melinda’s emotional state and naivety comes off as 2-3 years younger than the average 15-years old, despite some effort made at dropping 50-cent words. Although, I would argue this helps make the content more relatable to both Middle Grade and Young Adult readers. (The lack of graphic details regarding the actual rape also makes this a safer mode for introducing the topic and promoting serious discussion with readers as young as 12—in this reviewer’s opinion.)
Anderson captures all the isolating pettiness and narcissism of high school social dynamics—albeit via sometimes painfully stereotypical means. (The football players are, of course, the bullies. The football coach is a vicious, one-dimensional meathead. Melinda’s parents are clueless and flat—total non-factors in helping her get anywhere with her depression and acting out. The art teacher is eccentric and vivacious—the closest thing to sympathetic in the entire realm of Melina’s experience with adults.) And so, as far as fresh or original writing goes, the book doesn’t really stand out. Yet, it holds enough overall value that I wouldn’t regret handing it to one of my goddaughters in the hopes that it would open the door to difficult but necessary conversations.
Note: I would recommend Courtney C. Steven’s Faking Normal as a similar story alternative—for readers who may prefer stronger writing and more characterization depth.