A high school senior struggles to survive serious physical and emotional abuse.
Willow wants only to finish her senior year in high school, where she takes all AP classes and shines on the chess team, so that she can escape her Midwestern town and get away from her abusive boyfriend. She knows she can’t leave Jaden, because the football star knows her family secret, a fact so horrible she can’t allow it to be spoken. Her stepfather, Ralph, compounds her misery by insisting that she continue her relationship with Jaden and beating her whenever she tries to break away. Enter Brody, the new boy in school. Brody not only achieves drop-dead male-model hotness, he turns out to be intelligent and sensitive too. Willow falls for him hard. When she and Brody finally start dating, the violence from both Jaden and Ralph increases, sending Willow to the hospital. All the while Willow behaves as do most abuse victims: She lies to protect her abusers. Pickett balances the seemingly perfect romance story with Willow’s efforts to avoid and survive the abuse. Brody’s character, as everyone’s ideal, perfect boyfriend, may come across as just plain impossible, and Jaden behaves with such constant nastiness that readers may wonder why he suffers no consequences for his actions. Those two extremes aside, however, the book portrays Willow’s plight realistically.
An insightful cautionary tale. (Fiction. 12-18)