Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry

Joy is fifteen and until three months ago she lived a terrifying existence with her mother.  Now her mother is in jail, and Joy is safe, living with her aunt, uncle and two cousins.  But Joy doesn't feel safe, even though she knows she is.  She can't stop the panic attacks when she has to talk to someone, especially men.  She feels completely crazy and out of control and isn't convinced that things will ever get better.

For most of the book, it isn't stated explicitly what happened to Joy.  Depending on the maturity of the reader, you might make different assumptions.  Joy has a very hard time speaking to men.  Being alone with a man, even her uncle or cousin, can cause a panic attack.  She's afraid of the smell of beer.  She can't stand people looking at her.  I assumed she's been emotionally and physically abused by her mother, and raped by her mother's boyfriend, which we find out at the end of the book, at the trail of her mother, that's what happened.  The word "rape" is not mentioned the entire time until one sentence at the very end.

Because of this, this book might be a good choice for upper middle grade looking for a serious issues book.  It's not graphic or explicit.  It deals mainly with the aftermath and Joy trying to work her way through what happened to her and try and learn that she's safe now.

It does not happen all at once.  When the book starts, Joy has been with her aunt and uncle for three months and hadn't made very much progress.  She's not convinced she'll ever make progress.  But she slowly begins to.  She's able to be in the same room as her uncle, and then she's able to talk to him.  They eventually become close and he becomes her biggest advocate.  Joy starts making friends.  She is able to speak up a little more, and discovers new things about her personality.

It isn't all smooth sailing.  Joy has lots of stops and starts, and sometimes she falls backwards.   She worries what an imposition it must be to her aunt and her family to have to take her in.  She is surprised to learn her aunt feels horrible guilty for not getting Joy away from her mother earlier.  Joy has to deal with one of her cousins who is tired of everyone tiptoeing around her and doesn't understand why she can't just be normal already.

I thought Stronger Than You Know did an great job showing the aftermath of trauma and how it is truly a process to overcome it.  The book ends with hope, and we know, that even as Joy continues to struggle, she'll come out on top.

Stronger Than You Know came out September 1, 2014.
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