Monday, January 27, 2014

Etched on Me: A Novel by Jenn Crowell

Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

After escaping the hellish torment of an abusive father and disinterested mother, Lesley Halloway found refuge in the Child Protective Services, which gave her the freedom she longed for. However, being a teenager on her own with responsibilities of work and school, Lesley soon found the weight to be unbearable and turned to self-harming as a way to cope with the nightmares and pressure. She spent time in several psychiatric facilities and learned the tools necessary to live a productive, happy life.

Conquering her fears and triggers, Lesley pushed herself past her limits to make something of herself. All was well until she found herself unexpectedly pregnant. Lesley's past called into question her ability to care for a child and the same agency that helped to save her life was now trying to take her child. Will Lesley be able to her bad habits in the past? Will she be able to be the mother she dreamt of being?

As I was looking through the titles at NetGalley one day, this book stood out from the rest on the page. I felt that the subject matter discussed within the book was very much relevant to the lives of many people in the world today. Given the amount of people inhabiting the Earth this minute, it wasn't a stretch to think that a similar situation had taken place. Though the story is set in the UK, it could very well happen any place where the stigma of mental illness and self-harm resonated loudly.

From the first introduction into Lesley's world, it became very clear that she was strong, determined and resourceful. These traits were her saving grace as well as her downfall as her mental ill spiraled out of control once she was out of the abusive situation and into a relatively safe environment. The author made it quite easy for the reader to feel a connection with Leslie, both cheering her on as she made strides to correct her path and emphasizing with her when she made mistakes.

At times the story seemed more like a memoir than a fictional tale. The authenticity of the characters' reactions, thoughts and emotions lent a different kind of realness to the story that I found both enjoyable and heart-breaking. With almost seamless transitions between scenes, the pacing of the book was steady and natural in its progression from the beginning of Lesley's journey to the end of the court battle. Though we, the readers, weren't privy to a lot of the information behind the scenes, we were given front row seats to life as Lesley knew it, felt it, and learned to deal with it.

Witnessing everything that Lesley had to endure was difficult at times, but each experience also led her to create a support system that was loving and nothing like she endured at home. I was both happy and appalled at how the system which readily helped her as a child became the source of further pain and torment during her adult years after touting her successes. Unfortunately that turn of events has played out many times within my own country as I'm sure it has in other countries as well. There are several lessons within this book that would be beneficial to many people if they heed them, myself included.

Overall, I enjoyed this book because it seemed very much like a memoir. It thrust a spotlight on the double standard in certain fields that leaves many people feeling as though they are worthless and have no hopes or aspirations. Try as they might, they were always falling short of the goal because the goal was being moved further away from them. Instead of letting that system continue its behavior, Lesley and others fought back. With beautifully flawed yet approachable characters, the author used a fictional story as a launching pad for discussion and debate that could very well lead to positive changes. If you're looking for an endearing, hauntingly real tale that gives as much as it takes, I would highly recommend this book.

Etched on Me: A Novel by Jenn Crowell will be available for purchase at many online retailers in February 2014. You can pre-order a copy from Amazon in either paperback or Kindle format by clicking the link below.
Etched on Me: A Novel by Jenn Crowell

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