I really wanted to read this book because the professional reviews were quite different, PW gave a really nice review and BCCB gave a positive, but more critical one. I was also intrigued by the subject matter. Noelle was kidnapped when she was 14. It is now two years later and she has escaped and managed to have her kidnapper arrested. Now she’s back at home. I was interested in how it would play out.
The story is told through Tess’s voice. Tess is the life-long best friend of Noelle. While she wasn’t the one subjected to abuse, her whole life changed the day Noelle didn’t come home. She’s been in counseling ever since and she’s essentially cut herself off from other people because it feels disloyal to Noelle. She is frightened of strangers, even ones around her own age. Tess has essentially cut herself off from life.
Noelle, now Elle, is naturally angry. She is undergoing intense therapy and writing everything down in a journal. However, she didn’t seem to be suffering from PTSD and she was not self-harming. So yes, Elle drinks. Yes, Elle sometimes gets high. Yes, Elle is chasing after unsuitable boys. But to me, these seemed very mild compared to what she could be doing. In fact, Elle seemed to have a better grip on what is going on than anyone else in the story (with the possible exception of her lovely brother Cooper).
The interplay between Elle and those who were left behind was well done. Tess has lived the last two years in a protective bubble and to see how the protected and the abused interacted was really powerful. I liked how the distance between them seemed huge at first and that it slowly narrowed until they had made their way back to real friendship.
I did want to comment about something that BCCB brings up about the “vicious ex” Jessie of the boy that Elle chases. I felt like Jessie was a lot of hype. And by that I mean that as a popular girl her toughness and other attributes were exaggerated and hyped by the other girls. And to me that felt like a high-school reality. Jessie is nowhere near as devastating or tough as Tess makes her out to be – but to Tess that is how Jessie would seem - All-powerful. As Elle points out, Jessie pales in comparison to the other things that she’s experienced. It makes total sense that Elle is not worried about her at all. Jessie does say some things that were extremely nasty and at first I cringed and thought WHO WOULD SAY THAT??? No one would ever say that! But then I decided that is exactly the type of thing someone who is angry and spiteful would say. It is the sort of thing you say and then immediately wish you could take it back. It is the sort of thing people say and then feel ashamed for the rest of their lives.
My one quibble is that Tess occasionally pushed the boundaries of friendship with her “need” to know what happened to Elle. She really felt she had some sort of right to know. It seemed gross for her to press Elle to tell her the dirty details. So my quibble isn’t that it wasn’t realistic, but just that I found it a distasteful. I’m not sure why I’m even including this other than it bothered me a lot.
Book Source = Library Copy