Genre: Young Adult / Coming of Age / Bullying
Publisher: Wordcrafts Press
Publication Date: November 12, 2019
Number of Pages: 274 pages
The first rung: the betrayal The second rung: the assault The third rung: the rumors The fourth rung: the painting The final rung: no other way out
Betrayed, bullied, and battered emotionally, physically, and spiritually, Benji's life spirals out of control. She is certain there is nowhere to turn and nothing to live for. Yet in the midst of the darkness there appears a ray of hope in the Yeah, But I Didn't therapy group.
I wish I had this story growing up. This story did not sugar coat the struggles of growing up in your teenage years from the bullies and pressures to the internal turmoil and changing relationships. As much as I'd love to recommend this to middle grade students, to help them realize they are not alone and their thought spirals are normal, it is brutal. This story should have a long list of trigger warnings such as: suicide, attempted suicide, death of a parent, overdose, cutting, depression, teenage pregnancy, bullies, sexual assault, and PTSD.
As brutal as this story is there are so many learning moments in this book. I loved that Ben was not an only child. It seemed both Ben and her sister had very similar thought patterns only seeing a singular perspective and how situations changed their own personal lives. It was almost humorous to put that mindset in perspective and realize that even with how similar they were, they both claimed the other one was the only blindly, self-absorbed party. You were able to see both the internal dialogue and how it might look to someone on the outside with having two siblings in similar situations.
My favorite parts were in some of the smallest moments. The first was the teacher during her first day back at school after Paul. I had a teacher like that who said those few small words to me as well, asking if I'd like to go to the nurse, and she might have saved my life that day. This was a huge flashback and a great reminder that even the littlest of reactions can make the biggest impact.
The police in this story gave me the same tearful reaction and even the mother. The unprecedented, nonjudgmental empathy is something I hope everyone can take away from this story. Ben and her mother have a conversation where Ben simply states that "she didn't berate me or tell me I shouldn't have" and her relief is palpable. The other priceless moment that hit me hard was when the cop says, "I've been there. My own dad died when I was just a kid. It hurts like hell." and Ben's reaction says it all that she "grabbed her fingers like lifelines."
Be present. Be attentive. Because pain doesn't have to make sense.
A few quotes I adored were:
"We are always harder on ourselves than anyone else."
"You can't control everything around you--or even how others treat you--but you can control how you react. And that's how you take back your power."
"Later on I planned to put a new note in the Answered Prayers Jar. A thank you note to God for making me as tough as denim. A note acknowledging all the rungs on the ladder, those going up, as well as the ones going down. After all, without one, there wouldn't be the other."
Ann has been a writer since junior high school, but to pay the bills she has waited tables, delivered newspapers, cleaned other people's houses, taught school, and had a short stint as a secretary in a rock-n-roll radio station. She also worked as a 911 operator and a police dispatcher.
Her fiction began to win awards during her college days. Since then she's published quite a few short stories, novels, and novellas. But even if no one ever bought another book, Ann would not stop writing. She says it's a necessity, like breathing. Most of the time, it even keeps her sane.
One Autographed Hardcover Copy
February 4-13, 2020
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