Every Ugly Word by Aimee L. Salter

Every Ugly WordEvery Ugly Word by Aimee L. Salter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Originally titled Breakable, Every Ugly Word is Aimee L. Salter’s revamped debut novel that is now being published under Alloy Entertainment. And if you’ve read the blurb, then you’ll know that this deals with bullying with a unique twist.

Ashley Watson is seventeen years old and has been bullied relentlessly since she was thirteen. The reason behind the bullying is kind of her fault, she even acknowledges this fact, but for it to continue over the years over a stupid lie is sad. What makes it worse is that the bullying is done by her former friends. No matter what she does or where she goes, there they are ready to make her life a living hell.

Not only does she have to deal with her tormentors at school, but her home life isn’t all that great either. Her mom, who is dealing with her own issues when her husband leaves her for a younger woman, seems to have a funny way of showing Ashley she loves her. She’s cruel and she doesn’t even realize it.

Not even her friendship with her best friend, and crush, Matt is enough to bring happiness into her life, especially when he starts dating one of Ashley’s bullies. The more he tries to bring make things right between Ashley and her former friends, the more she starts to see him as a flawed human being instead of a knight in shining armour.

There is one solace though and that is Older Ashley. Older Ashley is Ashley, only in the future. The only way they can communicate is through a mirror, but Older Ashley has become somewhat distant and her half truths and vague details keeps making Little Ashley suspicious of her true motives.

It makes sense, considering Older Ashley has already lived through the bullying. She knows what happens and is determined to make sure that her younger self doesn’t make the same bad choices that she did. There’s only one problem, Older Ashley is currently in a mental institution and everyone kind of thinks she’s crazy. (Not really a spoiler, as you find this out within the first page)

Welcome to an unreliable narrator and a story that makes you wonder what is actually happen.

Every Ugly Word is told in first person present tense when Older Ashley narrates the story, and first person past tense when the Younger Ashley tells us what happened. The writing style is smooth and even though this might seem like a weird transition to read, it never felt off or jarring. Both Ashley’s had a distinctive voice, despite being the same person. Older Ashley is jaded and seems over it, while the Younger Ashley is angry, vulnerable, and naive.

In terms of characterization, I feel like Salter did a good job displaying flawed characters that may not be relatable or all that likeable, but feel real. Ashley, being the main character, is showcased the most and so we get to see her low points and her highs. I don’t think I’ve ever read a bullying novel and not shake my fist in anger at the bullied. I know that sounds bad, because in real life I would do that, but whenever I saw Ashley make wrong choice after wrong choice, I wanted to shake her and tell her to stop and to value herself. It was frustrating, but I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t think everyone will like her, but her growth and determination was nice to see.

Matt is also shown with a flawed set of glasses as well. He wants to be a good guy, but he’s also a high school boy who wants to be friends with everyone. He does some really crappy things to Ashley, but considering what he knew and the situation, it was believable.

With regards to the bullies, they don’t really get any depth to them, but then again considering that this is told from the bullied perspective it kind of makes sense. What they did to her was horrible, so it was hard to find anything really sympathetic or relatable. And since Ashley is the one telling us what they did, it would be kind of weird if they were anything other one dimensional jerkfaces. To Ashley, that is what they were and thus this is what the readers get to see as well.

The characters, like the writing, are also done well. But I especially loved the plot surrounding Older Ashley and Young Ashley. I wasn’t sure if Ashley was crazy or if the past that we were seeing involved a different Ashley or it was simply Older Ashley reliving the past. In the end, everything is revealed, but I did like how you were never really sure what was going on.

My only complaint was that there were times when the therapist didn’t seem to behave like a real doctor. I kept wondering if he was a figment of Older Ashley’s mind and if what she was experiencing was really real. Older Ashley’s interactions with him seemed false, in some places as well, and I couldn’t stand it when she kept calling him Doc this and Doc that.

Overall: I really liked Every Ugly Word. The bullying depicted here was uncomfortable in some parts and reading how broken Ashley was due to everything was kind of depressing. There will be times when you want to shake her and tell her that what she’s doing is stupid and will only hurt her in the end, but she still does it anyways. Mainly because Ashley isn’t real and her story is already written on the pages, so nothing you can say will change anything, but still….. The feelings of wanting to do that remain.

Great debut novel by Salter and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

 

 
Every Ugly Word was provided by netgalley

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Some Boys by Patty Blount

some boysPaperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: August 5th 2014

It’s been over a month since Grace was raped by her former boyfriend Zac. When Grace tries to charge him with rape, she’s not only told that she doesn’t have a case, due to their previous relationship, but the entire school turns their backs on her. Sadly, this isn’t too hard to believe when you find out that Zac is the practically the King of their school. Not only the top sports star around, but he’s a model student. The teachers love him and the girls can’t get enough of him. Unfortunately for Grace, since there is no proof, is her story vs his and everyone wants to believe him.

Not only was she raped and left bleeding and unconscious after a wood party, but she’s mercilessly bullied the moment she walks through the halls of her school. Slut and whore is constantly flung at her and guys try to grab at her breast and butt as well. Her former friends also bully her and try to make her life a living hell. Teachers also try to downplay what happened, because they can’t pick sides, but still allow students to bully her while chastising Grace when she retaliates.

To top things off, she’s also have problems with her family. Needless to say, things are not going all that great in Grace’s life. Things do start to change when she’s punished with cleaning duty during spring break, after threatens one of her former friends/tormentors.

She’s not alone in this punishment though. Her crush, Ian, is also doing this fun task after he swears at his coach about not being able to play. Ian, who is the best friend of Zac, also has a crush on Grace. Can you tell where this will go? If you said romance! You’d be right.

The book is told in Grace’s and Ian’s point of view, with each chapter changing voices. For the most part, I felt like both had their own distinctive voice and you definitely knew which POV you were reading from, even if you didn’t see the title of the chapter. Not too hard to do seeing as how Grace talked about her rape, while Ian talked about being conflicted about it. Even still, I felt like they had their own personality, which I appreciated.

I do like that the issue of rape was discussed and that Grace does tries to stand up for herself, even though she’s still suffering from panic attacks and is afraid of being alone with men. I also really liked how she was written.

When Ian mentions how she would look better without her costume on, i.e. the girl in the cover of this novel, but with more lots of black eye shadow, she ends up saying this:

“I won’t give up and I won’t run away. And I won’t change how I look even if you do think I look better this way, because I’m not the problem here! Everyone says it’s my fault because I got drunk, and you know what? That doesn’t count! Everyone was drinking that night. There’s only one thing that counts, but nobody wants to hear it.” (This is from the uncorrected arc version, which I normally try not to use for review, but I really loved this quote.)

This was scene was great, because how many times in books do we have the main hero tell the girl, “You’d look better without all of that makeup.” Or, he’ll mention how a piece of clothing that she wears doesn’t suit her and then she changes for him, instead of herself.

When her former friends come at her, she fights back. When guys try to grab her, she kicks them wear it hurts. Grace won’t allow herself to be objectified or to be a victim again and I loved this!

Some Boys also stresses that what you wear doesn’t justify guys or girls to call you disgusting words like slut or whore. This is a great message to send to young girls, so I did appreciate this as well.

However, yes there is a however, at some point in this novel things become preachy. Instead of sounding awesome, like the quote above, it started to sound more like an afternoon school special and less like real life.

This preachiness also starts to get a bit uncomfortable, when Grace decides to protest by donning a niqab. In her defense, she does think it’s a burqa……

Being a Muslim and reading this just made me shake my head and sigh heavily. Why does it seem like whenever someone wants to show that clothing shouldn’t matter, they decide to put on a religious clothing symbol and act like wearing this is demeaning to women? I don’t wear the niqab, I wear the hijab and cover my body with loose clothing, but I do have friends who wear it and love it. Sadly, a couple of them stopped wearing their it because of negative reaction and attention they got from people.

Thankfully, one of the Muslim characters in the novel does set Grace straight by saying that what she’s wearing isn’t a burqa, but a niqab. But then she also says, “The burqa is a symbol of oppression the Taliban forced on women.” Even this I have an issue with, because while some are forced to wear it, I’m sure there are also many who choose to wear it because it brings them closer to God. Some may even wear it because that’s what all the cool chicks are doing in their neighbourhood.

Despite how it may seem to others, wearing the hijab, niqab, and even the burqa isn’t meant to be a form of oppression or to help men control themselves. It’s a means to spiritually get closer to God. Men don’t really play a role here. Even in the Quran God tells guys to lower their gazes before anything is mentioned about women covering up.

Sorry, I’m getting religious here, but I do feel like I need to mention this because it does get annoying to read a book that had good points about not judging women on what they wear, to judging what women wear. Grace only stopped because a the Muslim student was around to witness this and cried. If said student wasn’t there, would Grace have stopped wearing the niqab and telling men that they’re all rapist who can’t control themselves due to her clothing? I don’t think so and I think this is what troubles me the most in this scene.

Enough about Grace though, the book is also about Ian, who reminded me of Clay from “Thirteen Reasons Why.” I liked how Ian was conflicted about being a true bro to his best friend Zac, who said that Grace didn’t say no, and wanting to be with and protect Grace, who said that Zac raped her.

He isn’t sure what to believe and this did provide for a nice narrative. He did seem like Clay though, when he started agreeing with Grace on everything she said, minus the rape, and basically became her cheerleader.

The thing is, Ian isn’t a knight in shining armour despite how much the book tells us he is. He was the one who discovered Grace, half naked, bleeding, and unconscious on the floor, and never said anything about it. He also hurts Graces and does join in with the bullying in one scene.

He also has this epiphany that girls are weird, when his sees his friends triple team a girl. The horror that he feels isn’t about how his friends are going at it with the same girl, but that she allowed them to do so. The horror! His sister explains that some girls are desperate for attention, while others are desperate for friends. The girl only allowed for the guys to have their way with her, not because she wanted to, but because she was the wing woman to her friend who wanted to get laid with the main guy.

*sigh*

Other than this and him driving under the influence, he’s a pretty decent guy. But I don’t like how he’s meant to be the beacon of what a great guy is after everything he did. If I were Grace, I’d accept his friendship but I’d never want anything to be romantic between us. Then again, I’m not a teen so maybe I’m seeing things a bit differently? I’d like to think I’d feel the same way though.

The ending, unfortunately, also doesn’t quite work for me. It was a typical happy ending where all of the loose ends are tied up in a nice pink bow. And even though I’m glad Grace found happiness, it didn’t ring true to me. This is a school that clearly idolized Zac, who is their star lacrosse player. The team was undefeated and heading into the playoffs. To lose that opportunity and have some of the other players benched due to their behaviour, would get some people angry. Grace would definitely have people coming to her once the truth is revealed and finally be on her side, but she’d also have a group that hates her because, according to them, she ruined the school’s chances at a perfect win.

To me, it doesn’t seem realistic for everyone to seek her forgiveness and be okay with the outcome, as sad as that may sound.

Also, [ spoilers : highlight the text to read them ] Zac keeping a video of the rape seemed pretty convenient. I mean, he doesn’t even have a password on his phone so anyone couldn’t have seen this piece of incriminating evidence. I just don’t understand why he would retain this video, knowing that it could ruin his life and chance to go to a top tier school.

When Ian finally realizes the truth, he starts to stop seeing Zac as a friend and instead as a symbol for female oppression. All of the hook ups, the look at girls like conquests, and how he treated his mom. For example, Zac’s mom offers to bring some food down, she starts talking to Ian only for Zac to say, “Mom, the food?” Then when she brought down the food and he didn’t say thank you to her.

….

Not saying this is right or not, but this seemed like typical teen behaviour and not a snapshot of female oppression. [/ spoilers ]

Overall: Some Boys has a great message for young girls and for the most part, Grace is a great MC. She’s tough, she’s smart, and she won’t back down when people come after her. I do kind of wish that the entire story was told from her point of view, but I guess Ian did have some good points in his chapters too.

Despite this, the book does go into preachy territory and the double standard about clothing didn’t sit well with me. The ending also felt a bit forced and unrealistic. The writing is great though and I did stay up to finish this, so there’s a balance of good and bad here.

 
Novel was provided by netgalley

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