After her older sister is murdered in a horrific incident of domestic abuse, Taylor begins a new life in a new town. She meets Lily, whose open, warm manner conceals a difficult personal life of her own, coping with her brain-injured mother. The two girls embark on a tentative friendship. But just when life seems to be smoothing out, Taylor’s abusive boyfriend, Devon, arrives on the scene, and before they know it, the girls find themselves in a situation that is both scary, and incredibly dangerous.
Abetted by Conor, a friend who owes him a favor, Devon takes the girls to a remote cabin. There is no heat, no food, no water. There is a hunting rifle, which Devon uses to intimidate the others. As he becomes increasingly agitated, and Conor threatens to bail, the girls engage in a silent battle of their own. Lily wants to escape, while Taylor feels hopelessly trapped by her relationship with Devon and uses sex and flattery to try to keep the situation calm. The cabin becomes a pressure cooker, filled with tension as the four teenagers wrestle with their anger, fear, resentment and boredom — any one of which could tip the situation into disaster.
From the opening moments when Taylor witnesses her sister’s autopsy to the final cathartic scene after the two girls have survived their ordeal, the reader is glued to every page of this frank, gripping and beautifully written novel that raises questions for every teenager. Do you need to be a certain way to get a boyfriend? Can someone who loves you also hurt you? How can a million small compromises eat away at who you are? What happens when you don’t think you deserve to be treated well? How do you end up in an abusive relationship, and what keeps you there?
Elise Moser goes deeply into the hearts and minds of Lily and Taylor, who in the end save each other in unexpected ways.
Rating: Writing- 8 out of 10 Plot- 4 out of 10
First Impressions: Only read this if you like overly emotional drama.
I put two separate ratings for this book because the writing was great and profound, but I really didn’t like the plot or any of the characters (except maybe Taylor’s nephew, Mason). It’s a story about domestic and sexual abuse. Taylor’s sister is with this man who physically harms her constantly, and one day he ends up murdering her. Taylor has to identify her sister’s body and it’s a real mess.
Cut to Taylor and Mason leaving their home and moving towns to live with their grandmother. This is when we find out that Taylor also has an abusive boyfriend, who threatens to beat her if she finds any new friends at her new school. When she finally does make a great new friend, he kidnaps them both, beats them up and takes them to a cabin in the middle of nowhere that has no water or electricity. And she still thinks to herself that, in his relaxed moments, she loves him.
I don’t want to sound insensitive, because I know domestic violence is a plague (Moser also included statistics in the author’s note), but I was really angry with Taylor. Her sister died from domestic violence and she found herself in the same situation and didn’t do anything about it. She had people who would have helped her and she had the opportunity to do it. She moved away and I really think that separation gave her the perfect chance to get help, but she never tried. I know it’s not as simple as that and that there are a lot of emotional conflicts and confusions when this happens. I would have liked to have a bit more hope. I shared this feeling with the other main character, Lily, who was angry with Taylor every time she obeyed her boyfriend. She understood why Taylor was so submissive and that she was just trying to be safe, but she also wanted her to be courageous and stand up for herself.
What I loved about this book was the beautiful language. Moser’s observations of love and friendship and family were stirring and deep and a rare find in modern literature.
If you want to read a book with great language and this doesn’t sound like a plot that would bug you, this novel is a great choice.
(I received this ARC a while ago, but it was the beginning of the school year and I was swamped! Sorry for the delay!)