Published: February 4, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls' prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she's secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism...until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital.
Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.
I'll come right out and say it. This isn't a fun book. It is one of those works that will put the reader through the emotional ringer.
And that is what makes it so good.
Lesley is one of those characters who just sticks with you. She has the sort of inner strength that I wish we all had--she is dealing with some really, really tragic circumstances and somehow, some way, she pulls through. And it is a struggle, there is no doubt about that.
I don't know that much about mental illness, so I have no way of knowing if what Crowell describes in this book is accurate. However, it certainly seems accurate to me. The pain that Lesley experiences is palpable to the reader, even to those who have little experience with anyone who self-harms.
The treatment that Lesley receives regarding the custody of her child seems almost barbaric to me. I doubt this would happen in the United States (not because child welfare is so much better in the US, but rather because it is lacking), but I could believe that it would happen in the United Kingdom. In fact, I found it interesting how involved the child welfare system was in a more socialized medical system. While I don't agree with decisions that were made there, I was impressed that there was a system in place for children before a problem developed.
Along the same lines, I was impressed at how "British" this book sounded. The dialogue was spot on and I never once questioned the authenticity, even though the author is American and lives right here in Portland, Oregon! I think that alone is quite a skill.
I will admit that this is not a book that I would recommend to just anyone. There are some very heavy subjects and I know that it is not everyone's cup of tea. However, for anyone with an open mind and willing to take it on, this is an excellent book!
I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.