Review Detail

4.0 2
Young Adult Fiction 2386
Emotional look at abuse
Overall rating
Writing Style
As a self-prescribed realistic fiction/“issues” book junkie, I’ve read a lot of novels that deal with tough and uncomfortable situations. So I think it’s significant that Bitter End impacted me as much as it did and caused the reactions it did. Rape culture and domestic abuse are two things I’m wildly, wildly passionate about, and, keeping in mind the somewhat frightening acceptance (and promotion) of unhealthy relationships in today’s media, I don’t think Jennifer Brown could have written a book more in need of writing. Bitter End is a book that I think many teen girls need to read today; Brown’s message is extremely important and, sadly, too often overlooked or laughed at.

An abusive relationship is, naturally, a difficult thing to write and read about. In the interest of being honest, I must confess that certain parts of Bitter End made my physically ill. It’s impossible to read about a woman being kicked and called a “dirty slut” by the man who “loves” her and not be affected, I think. But though this was a difficult book to read, and though, never having been in this sort of situation myself, I couldn’t empathize with the main character, Alex, so much, I believe that Jennifer Brown’s portrayal of this relationship was very realistic. At least, I found it so, to the best of my limited research and experience with domestic abuse.

The main character, Alex, was hard for me. She meets Cole, who seems to be really nice and sweet, and starts dating him. But at times she’s made a little uncomfortable by his habit of always being with her, showing up wherever she is, and at one point he does things to purposefully scare her. As the reader, I knew things weren’t right with Cole, but Alex wasn’t so quick to catch on, and that was frustrating, naturally. Then things get a little out of control, and Cole hits her.

And then Alex goes back to him.

That is the point where I struggled. I know that, psychologically speaking, Jennifer Brown was realistically painting the portrait of Alex as a victim of abuse. Her characterization was spot-on. However, as a woman who’s been lucky enough to never be in that situation, and as a reader sitting comfortably on the couch, I wanted to shake Alex. She’s weak, needy, too-forgiving, and only sees what she wants to see. None of those characteristics apply to the much–approved “kickbutt” heroine. It was hard for me to feel truly sympathetic for a girl who was in such a low place in her life.

But at the same time, Alex is able to pull out and walk away. She does gain strength, even though for most of the book she is very, very weak.

There are so many things to say about Bitter End. This story is told perfectly, realistically, and powerfully. I’m amazed by the impact and hard truth Jennifer Brown revealed in this book. It isn’t for the faint of heart, and it isn’t a feel-good novel by any means. But if you can stomach it, Bitter End is well worth reading.
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