Castleman’s portrayal of Anna’s trauma response is eye-opening—and distressing to read in places. Sentenced to “forty-or-so” days in treatment, Anna can’t quite comprehend why she’s suddenly alone, and her difficulties processing Terrible Ted’s abuse eat at her insides. Her stay is complicated by her habit of biting others “when I can’t get them to leave me alone” and wetting the bed—all normal behaviors, given her trauma history, but her struggles to speak keep that key information locked away. To confuse matters further, the treatment center staff and fellow residents come and go, making it challenging for Anna to form any real attachments.
As Anna fights for healing, she discovers Emily Dickinson’s poems and gains some temporary relief through therapeutic chanting. Her voice is still fettered, and her fear of Terrible Ted’s retaliation should she disclose the truth is palpable, but with the help of a few compassionate staff members, including Bart, who likens Anna to “a tiny flower push[ing] up through the cracks in the sidewalk,” and a therapy horse named Sapphire, Anna slowly finds her voice. Best read as a sequel to Castleman’s previous two books, this gut-wrenching story will leave readers questioning the mental health care and foster system.
Takeaway: A gut-wrenching story of trauma in the foster care system.
Comparable Titles: Holly Goldberg Sloan’s The Elephant in the Room, Tiffany D. Jackson’s Monday’s Not Coming.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A