Blogmas day 18 is another book review! Honestly, I’m so surprised that I might actually finish all of the novels on my TBR for December. Wish me luck!
Victoria Parker knew her dad’s behavior toward her was a little unusual, but she convinced herself everything was fine—until she found herself locked out of the house at 3:00 a.m., surrounded by flashing police lights.
Now, dumped into a crowded, chaotic foster home, Victoria has to tiptoe around her domineering foster mother, get through senior year at a new school, and somehow salvage her college dreams . . . all while keeping her past hidden.
But some secrets won’t stay buried—especially when unwanted memories make Victoria freeze up at random moments and nightmares disrupt her sleep. Even worse, she can’t stop worrying about her stepsister Sarah, left behind with her father. All she wants is to move forward, but how do you focus on the future when the past won’t leave you alone?
Rating: 4 stars
Note: Thank you to NetGalley and to Flux for sending me a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
TW: domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual assault, self harm, and suicide attempts
This is truly a heart-wrenching story. It’s the kind of book that will stay with you for a while because it pulled on all of your heart strings and made you cry. This story focuses on Victoria, our main character, who has suddenly been kicked out of her home by her father and forced into foster care just a few months before turning 18. Readers don’t get all of the backstory immediately, so you learn about Victoria’s past and the relationship between her and her father gradually as the story goes along. And unless your heart is made of stone, you will feel reeled in.
Sexual assault and child abuse are very hard topics to approach because they need to be handled correctly. An author cannot go into a story with no understanding of the effects it has on children without completely ruining the message. Nikki Barthelmess handled this so well. This is just a personal opinion, but the topic was handled really delicately and without any harsh stereotypes or insensitivity. These kind of stories need to be told, but the right way. Readers get a close look at the family dynamic in Victoria’s home. We are not simply catapulted in to an awful situation to try and figure out how Victoria got there. Instead, Barthelmess takes us all the way back to the beginning and shows us the relationship between Victoria and her father, mother, stepmother, and stepsister. There is a lot going on in this, but it’s not overwhelming (at least not in that sense, though the emotions can be). We’re also given a fairly realistic look at being a foster child at several different ages (thanks to Victoria’s foster sisters Jamie and Lizzie).
The plot is fairly slow-paced, and the book is pretty short, but for this type of story where readers gain information and insight as the story builds, this works. The last few chapters of the book speed up a bit to wrap everything up, which is one thing I think could’ve been tweaked a little. I’m glad that readers get some closure from this story, but I personally would’ve liked an extra chapter or two to really carry out the ending the way that Victoria, Sarah, and Jamie deserve.
The characters all shocked me. In a lot of books, we see development of the main character, and maybe minimal development of a supporting character or two to feed the story. However, in this one, it felt like practically all of the characters were developed for us. Victoria gets a lot of new people in her life thanks to being put into foster care, and for such a short novel, I didn’t think we’d learn so much about all of the people around her. Even Connie, who I really didn’t care for, has layers beneath her hard foster mother exterior. The friends that Victoria make don’t just add to the story but they get a little piece of their own in there, too. It isn’t often that I get to see so many contributing characters get legitimate story lines, but I really liked it.
Overall, this is definitely one that I’ll remember for a while. I was pulled in, my heart was shattered, and I was proud of Victoria in the end. She became her own beacon of hope, and if you love a story like that, then definitely check this out.