I saw MrsLangdonAlger’s review of this novel and was basically sold on the description of this one as an angry The Lovely Bones. It is but there are also distinct differences – the rapist/killer isn’t a creepy older neighbor but a peer of Ellie’s. The Lovely Bones was sad and beautifully written but by making I Stop Somewhere involve a peer, it is also very much a condemnation of rape culture, a testimony to how early girls learn their lack of importance and how early some boys abuse their power and privilege. I feel like the girl in The Lovely Bones also fit into the idea of “the perfect victim” – a nice girl from a good family. Ellie, on the other hand, is poor, her mom left long ago, and though she loves her father, she is also definitely in sullen and secretive teenage girl mode, being only fifteen at the time of her death. She has unintentionally hurt the feelings of loved ones and not cared enough about potential friends, but due to one boy’s decision, she will never outgrow those stages and be able to make up for them.
Beyond simply rape culture, Carter also explores ideas of privilege, how narratives are created and the decay of community. Ellie and her dad live in a small town, and the closure of a factory and loss of jobs has led to a series of foreclosures on the homes in their neighborhoods. She has seen families given only a short amount of time to pack up what they can take with them before being forced from their homes, and yet somehow a rich real estate developer can frame himself as a savior for acquiring those former homes and keeping them up, turning the families who were forced out into villains that simply abandoned their mortgages and obligations.
The novel is told entirely from Ellie’s perspective though chapters alternate between what she is currently witnessing and experiencing, and tracing back to how she ended up dead. Ever since her murder, Ellie’s ghost has been hanging around, watching her rapists repeat their crimes on other girls. Her death did not deter them or slow them down, and it is only after one of their most recent victims, Gretchen, reports them that they even begin to worry. Finally, they may face repercussions, but their lawyer assures them not to be too worried since it’s a he said/she said situation, and the girl has a reputation. Ellie is angry about what keeps happening, and though her disappearance went largely unremarked because she was such a nonentity in life, Gretchen’s anger helps bring attention back to Ellie’s disappearance.
The novel serves as a condemnation of rape culture, of the deterioration of small towns, and how the court system works – since Gretchen presses charges, a trial is inevitable and the trial is frustratingly realistic while also being unbelievable when considering how people might reach certain conclusions. The two novels combined might be a bit much to take, but I think this would pair well with The Surface Breaks, one being a quiet exploration of an extreme patriarchy while this novel is an angry protest against rape culture in today’s society. Combined, they would be great introduction novels to feminism for a teenage girl since one illuminates the evils of patriarchy, and the other gives voice to their anger. Any ideas for a third novel that would help them determine what to do with that anger?