Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 10, 2011)
Buy the Book: Amazon
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole -- a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her -- she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats.
As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose -- between her "true love" and herself.
Alex Bradford is the middle daughter in her family and lives at home with her younger sister and her father. Her older sister is away at college and her mother died when Alex was very small. Even though Alex was too young to even remember her mother, the facts about her death have always played a huge role in Alex's life. She cannot understand why her mother left in the first place and why she was in the car accident that killed her. Alex's father refuses to discuss his wife and chooses to disconnect from his 3 daughters. Her sisters seem to have been able to move ahead and only Alex feels the great void of not having a mother. The main support for Alex comes from her two best friends, Bethany and Zack. The three of them do everything together and they know all about Alex. When Alex meets a new guy at school her life changes dramatically. Cole thinks that she is smart and funny and beautiful. He wants to spend time with her and makes her feel loved and protected.....something that she has longed for all her life. As Alex says, she "finally felt as if...for the first time in my life...someone loved me." At first, the only negative in their relationship is that Bethany and Zack don't like him and the feeling is mutual. More and more Alex is forced to choose between Cole and her best friends, and Cole always wins. The relationship between Alex and Cole takes a tragic turn when he begins to abuse her physically. It started slowly with him grabbing her knee or arm and squeezing tightly and escalated from there. Ironically, they also became closer romantically during this time. Alex struggles with her love for Cole and her mounting fear of him. She has lost her closeness with her best friends, her father is not interested and she is afraid and embarrassed to talk to anyone about what is going on. Alex's internal battle is epic and she questions and doubts every decision she makes. Does she deserve the things Cole says and does? Why can't she be the girlfriend he wants? If she breaks up with him will she ever find someone else to love her?
This was a very sad story and, unfortunately, is all too common among teens today. Alex is a nice, hardworking girl who has a great yearning for love in her life. She fears that her mother didn't love her enough to stay with her. Her father is cold and distant, refusing to get involved with his daughters lives in any way other than providing a home and food. Her sisters do not seem to have the same void that she has and have no sympathy for her. She even shares her best friend with another best friend. Then when a good looking guy comes along and gives her everything she has longed for she falls like a rock. This story helps us to see how someone can get sucked into a relationship that becomes verbally and physically abusive. It also helps to answer the questions that we all like to ask: Why doesn't she break up with him? Why does she keep going back to him? Why didn't she tell someone? How can she still love him? I hope that teens and parents will read this and use it to open up a discussion about verbal and physical abuse.
There is quite a bit of language and the violence is not muted. I highly recommend this book for what it can bring to the discussion of teen violence.
Sexual Content: Heavy
Profanity: Very Heavy
Other Notables: Underage drinking
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