Author: Chad Musick
Narrator: Ivy Tara Blair
Release Date: February 16, 2021
Listen Date(s): May 2, 2021 – May 18, 2021
Folks know 14-year-old Clare isn’t normal, even for a tomboy. She runs too much, talks too little, carries a gun too often, and holds a grudge forever. Only her papa’s job at the bank keeps gossip quiet. It’s unwise to risk the cold anger of the man who knows everyone’s secrets.
Clare feels prepared for everything from fire, to flood, to demon attack. When her neighbor Esther kisses her, though, Clare has no ready script. Maybe she could write one, given time she doesn’t have. At the moment of that first kiss, Esther’s mom is bleeding out from a gunshot wound.
Clare can read the signs everyone else is determined to ignore. A murder was only the beginning. Esther needs protection, whether she wants it or not, and Clare won’t abandon her friend just because things are hard.
Maybe one day she’ll be forgiven for doing what’s needed.
I both loved and hated this book. The writing was exquisite, and the author did a phenomenal job of bringing the characters to life with his words. The plot, however, was absolutely heartbreaking. This book followed the teenage Clare as she befriended her neighbor, which lead to the uncovering of many awful family secrets. It provided an honest and heartfelt look at a teenager’s explorations of her identity and sexuality. Ultimately, it was a story that illustrated the destructive influence of abuse and trauma and the healing power of love.
There are so many trigger warnings for this book, I doubt I will be able to remember them all. There was a ton of abuse of all sorts, including sexual, emotional, physical, and spiritual/religious abuse of a minor. It also featured medical neglect, withholding of food from a minor, domestic abuse, teenage pregnancy, abortion, miscarriage, prostitution, police violence, and incest. Furthermore, the book detailed murders, attempted murders, arson, and child death. Needless to say, the story was not for the faint of heart, and I cringed in horror and cried intensely multiple times throughout the book. There were many times I was incredibly uncomfortable while listening, but the writing and story were so engaging I just had to know what was really going on. The author did a fantastic job of slowly revealing the truth of the story by framing it through the gradual loss of the main character’s innocence.
The main characters in this story were beautifully realized. Clare was an autistic 14-year-old who was still largely ignorant about the world and strong in her convictions, especially her belief in protecting her friends. The story was from her POV, and the audience got to follow her thoughts and reactions about all of the horrible things happening around her. Her new best friend, Esther, was also a very well-developed character, and the relationship between the two girls was one of the highlights of this book. The villains in this book were truly awful people, and I’m still flabbergasted at the thought of what they did in this story. To me, that is the main indicator of a great book, having characters and a story that I still think about long after finishing it.
I’d be remiss to not mention the incredible quality of the audiobook and its narrator. The narrator did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Clare and brought her to life in an incredible way. The pauses and nuances in pronunciation did a great job of adding to the emotion created by the writing.
This was a story that I won’t soon forget no matter how much I may want to. It moved me deeply and made me feel so many things. I highly recommend it, but it is not a light read. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.