by Gillian French
Publication Date: May 9th 2017
Find This Book: Grit
*****CW: RAPE, SEXUAL MANIPULATION BY TEACHER, SLUT-SHAMMING, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, KIDNAPPING/DISAPPEARANCE*****
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for honest review.
This book was a disappointment to me. It feels like it barely scratched the surface. I don’t read a lot of contemporary, so it was refreshing in that regard, and I enjoyed Darcy and reading from her perspective. Darcy is slut-shamed throughout the book which isn’t really warranted and was upsetting the whole way through. Even her aunt trash-talks Darcy in her own home. It was disgusting to read those scenes to be honest. I hate her aunt so much. The ‘tragic’ backstory of her aunt does not excuse her present behavior. Though apparently it does to the characters within the novel. All of the characters were flawed in their own way but there was so much going on it was hard to find a main plot or point. Darcy’s ex-best friend is missing, Darcy’s dad is dead, Nell’s father left her family before she was born, there’s rape, and sexual manipulation of a teacher to a student… there’s a pageant thrown in there, it’s a lot going on at once.
I think the slut shaming was done in semi-good taste. Slut-shaming by the main character is so prevalent in books these days that it was fantastic to read about the damage the rest of YA protagonists inflict. Darcy gets so much crap from everyone around her based off of rumors. Nobody ever listens to her truths and she takes the brunt of it to protect those she cares about from getting similar harassment. Hopefully a learning lesson for young readers to just keep an open mind about their peers.
What really disappointed me was that the rest of these issues aren’t actually addressed. Most of the events happen before the start of the novel, and the novel is Darcy living her life harvesting blueberries in Maine as secrets slowly spill out. It felt weird not knowing what all the horrible secrets were until the end of the novel. It didn’t leave any room for doing something about all of the secrets, or moving forward, or opening the discussion up for readers. It mostly felt like these serious issues were just quick plot points- aka my disappointment. The secrets-revealed-the-end sort of thing doesn’t work with stuff this huge.
The author says one of the characters may have been depressed and suicidal in one sentence and then never brings it up again. It needed to be addressed. Similarly, the rape happens and then it’s never brought up again with any sort of resolution. They even have to encounter their rapist multiple times throughout the book pretending like nothing happened. And the rapist is so casual and oblivious about how encountering him makes her feel. This was the biggest issue in the book for me, primarily because the other problems got more ‘screen-time,’ the whole town knew about them, and felt more resolved. This rapist is walking around and nobody knows and it’s implied that nobody will know. It was very uncomfortable to read. The victim doesn’t really take the time to address her situation either because they’re dealing with so many other people’s problems too. Suicide, kidnapping, sex, alcohol, rape, and teacher manipulation are deep and important issues. It felt like the least the author could’ve done is go in a bit more, hash out the problematic stuff, and leave the reader more fulfilled. Not closure per-say, but with more doors opened for discussion about these issues instead of just making them feel like plot points.
The author had the opportunity here to really do some good and bring light and understanding to tough situations, and I was really let down by how it turned out. Sure the book was more complicated and in-depth than I’m making it sound, pretty much all the characters are realistically flawed and have reasons for being problematic. I also don’t think I could really expect the author to do much more while still being under 300 pages, but I’m dismayed that the author created this platform… and then just did nothing with it.