They think I'll be number seven. Unlucky number seven. Dead teenager number seven. With the rash of suicides at my school, I've been shipped off to my dad's Wyoming ranch for “my own safety.” My mom worries I'll be next—another depressed teenager whose blood will end up on the train tracks. But she doesn't know my secrets...or what I did. Everything has changed at the ranch since I was there last. The staff is gone, and there aren’t any visitors. The place is struggling, and ALS is destroying my dad. The one bright spot in this mess is his new—and only—ranch hand, Jake. He’s gorgeous, cheerful, healthy and sane. Shadows don't haunt his eyes and eat away at him in the night. But the ranch and Jake can't save me from the darkness inside, or the knowledge of what I've done. This time, it's up to me to save myself...
Paint My Body RedFeatured
Here we go. Let's dive in.
First of all, I want to say that I'm not an expert at abusive relationships involving rape. (It has never happened to me, thankfully, and what I know comes from secondhand sources.) But what happens in PAINT MY BODY RED seems realistic, and the main character's (Paige's) very wrong relationship with her stepbrother (Tyler) is horrible and downright frightening. The power play between the victim and the abuser is disgustingly fascinating, and I can't help but hope Tyler goes and die a very painful death. Preferably alone. Where he can rot while his soul wanders the earth forever and never rests.
(Okay, I clearly took too much time reveling in that.)
Paige is healing from her nasty experiences in the present. She meets Jake, and suddenly, she is thrown for a twist. She doesn't know where to start, and she is very, very likable. Though she starts off as slightly naive, she becomes stronger. She doesn't get broken down, and it is clear that being on the ranch is doing good things to her. Being friends with a wild horse is helping her heal even more.
Jake is sweet and kind. He's an old friend of Paige, a blast from the past. I wish the author dived a bit more into his character, because he has a whole bunch of potential. (Though the ending part of the book doesn't exactly make him likable. The girl you're in love with was worried about you, Jake! Call her!)
Six suicides. Contrary to what the synopsis sounds like, it's not from supernatural causes. I heard from somewhere that suicide rates peak up when someone kills themselves. It's quite ghastly (but I have to raise my eyes at that large number. Six suicides in a single school? A bit far-fetched).
The plot goes by quickly, and it's split between the past and the present. The present parts are simply the best, which is all I have to say on that subject. The ending, on the other hand, falls weak at some areas, but it gives a good send-off.
Overall, PAINT MY BODY RED is the kind of book that has that one relationship that haunts people. The descriptions are quite freaky, and the story never makes me bored. Not for a moment. This one is definitely for those who have a strong stomach for darkness and duplicity.
Rating: Three out of Five
In Paige's high school one so-called successful teen ends up killing himself and leaves behind questions of why someone like him would want to do this. Then another teen follows in what becomes a string of suicides that rock her town. Paige has her own secrets which involve a 'hot' stepbrother. Then something happens that has her mother send her back to her father's ranch in Wyoming. The story goes back and forth between 'then' and 'now' and gives readers a glimpse into Paige's world where the push for success has a bitter cost.
What worked: I love Kling's writing and PAINT MY BODY RED highlights her emotion packed scenes with pain-wrenching reveals throughout. Readers see the cost of parents that push their children to succeed to the point that anything fun is considered a dirty word. The pressure to get into the best schools and the aftermath of those teens that 'break' is heart breaking.
This novel alternates between 'then' and 'now' scenes where readers get glimpses on what lead to Paige being sent back to Wyoming. I admit, I'm usually not a fan of this writing style but in PAINT MY BODY RED, it works. There were more than a few times that I didn't see a reveal coming.
Paige witnesses the string of suicides which involve someone close to her. There's other factors which involve her stepbrother Ty. The interactions and fallout between Paige and Ty's relationship shows how someone can manipulate a 'bad' situation into something even worse. Kling doesn't hold back and the raw emotions mingled with powerful images are wow-worthy.
The Wyoming scenes are where Paige slowly comes to life. The relationship between her and cowboy Jake are intense but not over the top. The compare and contrast between Ty and Jake are shown in vivid details. Jake becomes more of an anchor to her life while Ty's so-called attraction is based more on his wants. How Ty doesn't take no for an answer and how he manipulates Paige to feel guilty over their forbidden relationship is chilling. The guilt, pain, and abhorrence she feels on what happened between her and Ty makes her feel as if no one would want her as she was 'damaged' goods. Readers find out how far this goes at a terrifying reveal. No spoilers here!
I loved the playful dialogue between Paige and Jake. She opens up to him, not at first, but gradually and when they do get together? Wow. There's something real and intense between the two of them that readers feel right at their first encounter. You want them to be together. I know I did!
Another part of this story is Paige's reaction to her father who she finds is suffering from ALS. At first she feels awkward around him but their relationship is more of forgiveness and acceptance.
While in Wyoming Paige arcs and still has to make some very difficult choices. It would have been so easy to end this story with a big bright bow but Kling shows us a flawed heroine who grows into someone that no longer calls herself a victim but rather is a survivor.
PAINT MY BODY RED has gut-wrenching tragedy shown with unflinching honesty and where salvation is set behind a Wyoming backdrop. Real, honest, and intense this is a story that will stay with you long after you turn that last page.
2. Real, honest, and intense this is a story that will stay with you long after you turn that last page.
3. Doesn't hold back on addressing sensitive subjects such as rape and suicide
4. A romance that is wow-worthy but not over the top