“Your words are kindling, twigs covered in wax, soaked in lamp oil, sticky with tar. Your breath is a match, scratching along sandpaper… Whisper break the silence, one word, then two…with every word spoken a loud victory. The words burst into flames, the silence, broken.”
This imagery from the novel’s foreward was so powerful and poetic, and the story hadn’t even started yet! But what a great story it is, and beautifully told – even though one doesn’t think of freshman year of high school as an ideal setting. And for Melinda Sordino, it certainly isn’t. The summer before high school, Melinda’s life changed when she was raped at a party. She called the police for help, but couldn’t find the words to describe what happened. Her silence did nothing to dispel rumors that she ratted on the party. Melinda grew deeper into depression and isolation as the year progressed, barely able to speak more than the minimum to interact with others.
Melinda’s world around her slowly falls apart, a symptom of the inner turmoil she faces. Her friends, new and old, abandon her. Her relationship with her parents is strained. And her grades suffer, except in art class, where she is tasked with a project based on a randomly chosen object, a tree.
Although afraid to speak and interact with others, Melinda still has a clear voice in the novel. She’s a great narrator and you’ll root for her the entire way, while maybe realizing she is someone you know – an acquaintance, a friend, or even yourself. Her story is the story of so many people that must be told, and in the end, Melinda finds a way to tell it.
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