“Theo is better now.
She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.
Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.”
I found an “uncorrected proof” of this book somewhere in town for free so I grabbed it. I wasn’t sure I would like it. It was surprisingly deep for a YA novel. Over the course of the book I got drawn into Theo’s world in a way that I never expected from the description.
Theo has an eating problem. It looks like Anorexia Nervousa, but her eating disorder isn’t a way to deal with her body image. Instead is is explained in a way that cutting is often explained. Restricting her diet gave Theo control over her life in a way she needed to cope with the issues she was dealing with, but it took over and became an addiction. This was fantastically shown throughout the book. The friends that watch after years of being “better”, family that still comment about what you are doing. There is so much detail.
Add in that this book sees a “consensual” relationship between a 13 year old girl and an older man as rape. At first I was worried that Theo would never realize that she had been raped, but by the end she was able to see that she was not old enough to consent, she didn’t even really know what sex was so there was no way for her to consent to it. She described feeling dirty and used when things got rough, but not so much when things were soft and gentle. It paved the way for a lot of discussion of what could be rape and what isn’t rape. Despite Theo wanting to date him and thinking she had to have sex with him for that, it doesn’t mean she consented to sex.
This book wasn’t super suspenseful, exciting, or even wonderful. I am just so amazed at the way the author was able to handle describing an eating disorder and statutory rape. I am concerned because this story was not true to life in some ways:
1. Most serious dancers who plan to do it for life don’t smoke. It messes with lung function and if they are as serious as Theo, smoking wouldn’t be an option. Alcohol consumption is along the same lines, especially because of Theo’s eating disorder.
2. Black male children are not covered by the news unless they have killed someone or robbed someone. They are not seen as human or worthy of attention by the white news media. There would have been little to no news coverage of a black teen gone missing.
3. There would have been little to no coverage of the case as it was a white man attacking two black children. That would not have been allowed to escape since racism is the middle name of the news. There is a chance that Donovan’s story would have been covered, but they would not have used a picture to avoid showing he is black, just to say the guy was gay. Since homophobia is the other middle name of the media.
I felt mildly cheated that what happened to Donovan was not revealed. It literally ends with a phone call. Which brings me to the next point: the dialogue always felt a bit forced. There isn’t a great deal of dialogue that matters in the book, but it did make the book harder to read.
3.5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book, selectively.
You can buy the book here.