September 2, 2014

Latest Read: Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry

Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry
Publication date: Sept. 1, 2014
Publisher: Albert Whitman Teen
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received at BEA
Summary: After police intervention, fifteen-year-old Joy has finally escaped the trailer where she once lived with her mother and survived years of confinement and abuse. Now living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in a comfortable house, she’s sure she’ll never belong. Wracked by panic attacks, afraid to talk to anyone at her new school, Joy’s got a whole list of reasons why she’s crazy. With immense courage, Joy finds friends and grows closer to her new family. But just when hope is taking hold, she learns she must testify in her mother’s trial. Can she face her old life without losing her way in the new one? Will she ever truly belong in a world that seems too normal to be real? (Adapted goodreads.com)

The good
Stronger Than You Know is this emotional punch wrapped up in a mere 250 pages. I couldn't believe the emotions it evoked in me as I read. In part because I wasn't expecting it and also, the writing and characters, particularly Joy, just grab at you. While nothing about Joy's story is simple, the plot and prose is straightforward and to the point. But that was the beauty of the book.  It gets right down to the heart of one girl's pain and suffering and road to recovery and I was so, so in it every step of the way. 15-year-old Joy is now living with her aunt, uncle and cousins in a great neighborhood and attending a good school. But she can't escape the nightmares of her past. Before the police and social services intervened, she was living with her unstable mother and her slew of boyfriends. She's suffered abuse, house arrest (as in her she was hardly ever let out of her home) and worse. Every step Joy tries to take forward is a battle as she experiences panic attacks, fear and a general mistrust of everyone around her. It's a heartbreaking story for sure but I had so much hope for Joy to live a normal, happy life.

The author does a great job of not shying away from Joy's inner turmoil. Joy doesn't want to be this hypersensitive bundle of nerves but she is and truthfully as more of her story got revealed, I was in awe of her strength and ability to get up every day and just function. And the most important part of Joy's road to normalcy is her family. It's at a slow pace but she does begin to form relationships with her aunt, uncle and cousins. It's especially the one with her uncle that had me in tears because he was the person she was afraid of the most in the beginning. But really, the way each of them try to break down her walls and prove that they love her is just beautiful. Maybe it's because I come from a tight-knit family and know first-hand how important that type of support system can be but the family stuff was my favorite part of the book.

The other part of Joy's new life is school and making friends, two things she's never had to deal with before. Early on she makes one new friend who also happens to be a really cute boy. Their relationship was a nice break from the heaviness of everything else but still felt on point because Joy's past permeates almost everything she does. But it's an important step forward. She keeps making these kinds of steps and just when you think she's hit normal, she finds out she needs to testify in her mother's trial. Which again, so heartbreaking. This is definitely a book I won't be forgetting anytime soon.

(No) reservations
Although I was really curious about Joy's mother and wouldn't have minded learning more about her, I wouldn't change a thing.

Do I recommend?
I highly recommend! I've already been encouraging friends to read it and now I'm telling you - read this book!

Happy reading!

2 comments:

  1. I'm seriously so happy that you recommended I read Stronger Than You Know! It wound up being one of the best reads I had all that month, because it was so emotionally compelling. The characters, the relationships, the stories - it was seriously addictive!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've read Perry's The Summer I Found You and was actually so surprised with how much was packed into a book! She really did well with developing the characters and story and made me so invested! I didn't know she had another book out, so I actually just went and added this on Goodreads so I wouldn't forget about it! Thanks for recommending!

    Cassie @ Happy Book Lovers

    ReplyDelete