Release Date: February 25th, 2014
Length: 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library
An edgy, realistic debut novel praised by the New York Times bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys, as “a beautiful reminder that amid our broken pieces we can truly find ourselves.”
Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool. Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does—and deal with the trauma.
When Bodee Lennox—“the Kool-Aid Kid”—moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own. As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up about the rape that has changed the course of her life.
Trigger warning for sexual assault/rape, abuse, and death.
When I first read the blurb for this, I thought I was going to love it. I’ve always enjoyed reading books about difficult topics like this one (although have recently been neglecting them). Then I started reading it and wasn’t so sure. Luckily, it ended up getting much better from there on out and I ended up really enjoying it.
What I most appreciated about this book was that it showed just how difficult it can be to open up about a traumatic event not only to your friends and family, but even to yourself. Alexi really struggles with admitting to herself the severity of what happened. She makes excuses for her rapist and blames herself, believing that since she didn’t outright tell him “no” that it’s her fault she was raped and that it was all just a big misunderstanding. Stevens did an excellent job portraying how difficult it can be to acknowledge things like this and to learn to cope and move on. Readers get to see how much the trauma affected Alexi’s life and how certain phrases or situations can be triggering and difficult to deal with.
I loved the friendship between Alexi and Bodee. They both have experienced trauma and are attempting to cope with it and both help the other do this. They draw strength from each other in a wonderful way. What I really liked was that neither one of them really expected the other to tell them everything that had happened, but instead respected that the other would tell them what had happened if/when they were ready. In the meantime, they offered their attention and time as a way to show they were there for each other and wanted to help/support their friend.
I honestly really didn’t like Heather, Alexi’s friend. I’m not entirely sure what it was about her character, but she just came across as very self-centered and didn’t really seem to respect Alexi’s boundaries and wishes. I didn’t like Kayla, Alexi’s sister, very much either but she at least partially redeemed herself (which was a huge shock to me, to be honest).
One small complaint I have is that there were a couple of moments of slut-shaming of one character, Maggie. It didn’t happen often enough for me to be really bothered by it, but there were two or three comments that Alexi made in the narration and to Heather looking down at Maggie for sleeping around. It didn’t serve any purpose either, so it was not only a crappy thing to say but completely unnecessary.
If you start reading this and think you have everything figured out early on in the book: you probably don’t. I remember at about 80 pages into the story, I thought I knew who had raped Alexi and I was getting really annoyed because I thought the book was too predictable. But I was completely wrong!
This is a good book about a topic that can be incredibly difficult to talk about, but is so important. As far as I can tell, it deals with the topic pretty delicately and accurately, but as I have never been a victim of rape, I’m not the most qualified to make a statement on that. If you like reading books that deal with tough topics, I would absolutely recommend this to you. It deals with difficult situations but is ultimately a story of how with the support and strength of friends, you can get through anything no matter how impossible it may feel at the time.