Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez.
Dani Falls learned to tolerate her existence in suburban Florida with her brash and seemingly unloving mother by embracing the philosophy Why care? It will only hurt. So when her mother is killed in a sudden and violent manner, Dani goes into an even deeper protection mode, total numbness. It’s the only way she can go on.
But when Dani chooses The Stranger by Albert Camus as summer reading for school, it feels like fate. The main character’s alienation after his mother’s death mirrors her own.
Dani’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she is sent to New Mexico to live with an aunt she never knew she had. The awkwardness between them is palpable. To escape, Dani takes long walks in the merciless heat. One day, she meets Paulo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develop between Dani and Paulo, and Dani begins to heal. And as she and her aunt begin to connect, Dani learns about her mother’s past. Forgiving isn’t easy, but maybe it’s the only way to move forward. (Published summary)
Kind of a hard book to review. I’m not quite sure in the end if it pulled off the effect it was looking for, or slid a little into ‘trying too hard’. But there’s definitely some good writing, and some good points made, and left in the reader’s thoughts.
The deep point of view was the reason I picked up the book, after skimming the first few pages, and it didn’t disappoint me. Dani’s drifting through her life, unanchored. Emptied. Not really looking for something to care about; on the contrary, she’s trying not to care, and succeeding. And the POV shows that, lets the reader feel how she’s come undone, know the sensation of living life with a film between you and it, understand the blank it-doesn’t-matter feeling. That’s some strong writing.
The actual plot seems to be about the cycle of abuse, and breaking free from it. Forgiving the past and believing that there can be a future. But there’s no wrap-everything-up everything-will-be-perfect ending, and I’m glad. That could have ruined it. Instead, the ending encompasses both hope, and the realistic understanding that not everything has meaning, and sometimes the best you can do is hold on and survive.
Sexual Content: “Turned it up so I’d forget about school and you half-dressed in the back yard for all the world to see.” / ‘She had men over all the time. She would choose them over me. […]She looked like a ghost in that pool, laughing as one of them kissed her neck. As she climbed on top of them.’ / One school kid accuses another of “watching porno on his phone”. / Girl fleetingly thinks a boy is trying to get her in his bedroom for sexual reasons, but she’s mistaken./ Kissing between MC/boy.
Language: 22 F-words, 15 hell, 5 d****, 12 scatological terms, 1 derogatory term
Violence: Character is mauled/killed by a bear. Bear is euthanized. Jackrabbit is hit and killed by a car. MC remembers deliberately burning her fingers with a lighter until they were all callused. MC remembers her mother hitting her on the head. Woman strangles her abusive husband – partly in self defense – and ends up killing him. Girl remembers being struck/beaten by her father, multiple times, and seeing him abusing her mother and sister.