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When Imogen, a 16-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do, freezes during a holdup at a local diner, the gunman is shot and killed by the police, and she blames herself for his death. Before the shooting, she believed that her black belt made her stronger than everyone else—more responsible, more capable. But now that her sense of self has been challenged, she must rebuild her life, a process that includes redefining her relationship with her family and navigating first love with the boy who was at the diner with her...
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When Imogen, a 16-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do, freezes during a holdup at a local diner, the gunman is shot and killed by the police, and she blames herself for his death. Before the shooting, she believed that her black belt made her stronger than everyone else—more responsible, more capable. But now that her sense of self has been challenged, she must rebuild her life, a process that includes redefining her relationship with her family and navigating first love with the boy who was at the diner with her during the shootout. With action, romance, and a complex heroine, Bruised introduces a vibrant new voice to the young adult world—full of dark humor and hard truths.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this problem novel that quickly takes a romantic turn, first-time author Skilton paints a vivid portrait of a girl whose shame leads to an identity crisis. Sixteen-year-old Imogen is the youngest black belt in her tae kwon do dojang. She can break boards with her feet and toss a man twice her size, but when her skills are tested during a diner holdup, she cowers rather than acts, and a man dies. Having lost her confidence and her pride, Imogen is ready to give up martial arts until Ricky—another witness of the holdup—asks her to teach him how to throw a punch. While working with Ricky, Imogen makes discoveries about her passions and fears, while reflecting on her disabled father, playboy brother, and tae kwon do teacher, as well as Ricky himself, the one person who understands what she’s going through. Offering psychological drama and an introduction to a martial-arts code of behavior, the book has a meaningful message about power, control, and the internal bruises carried by victims. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sara Megibow, Nelson Literary Agency. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Sixteen-year-old Imogen's proudest accomplishment is her black belt in Korean martial arts. So after a stickup at a local diner leaves the teenaged gunman dead from police fire, Imogen is devastated that she cowered beneath a table instead of intervening in a way that might have saved the gunman's life: the one time her martial arts prowess mattered most is the time she did nothing. What follows is Imogen's descent into self-loathing: she shreds all her past Tae Kwon Do award certificates, submits failing work at school, wanders dangerous neighborhoods alone at night, and tries to goad her new sparring partner (and crush) Ricky Alvarez into punching her in the face during their intense fight-sessions together. Imogen is as hard on others as she on herself: contemptuous of her father for eating his way into wheelchair-bound diabetes, alienated from her older brother for having slept with her best friend, and from her best friend for having slept with her older brother. While it is fascinating to learn about the mental and physical discipline of Tae Kwan Do, and moving to see Imogen's ultimate growth as she accepts herself and others, she is so unsympathetic for so much of the book that readers may resist empathizing with her. The novel leaves unchallenged Imogen's belief that she will find no inner peace unless she finally manages to get a reluctant Ricky to give her the savage bruising she feels she deserves. A dark and bruising story. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
VOYA - Jennifer M. Miskec
When a night of hanging out with peers ends in a hold-up and a fatal shooting, sixteen-year-old Imogen, a witness to the crime, struggles to process the events of the evening. A close group of family and friends lends support, especially her older brother, but none are equipped to help Imogen deal with her guilt. A black belt in tae kwon do, Imogen cannot help but think she should have done something to stop the gunman. Imogen begins to piece together and process the traumatic events with the help of another witness to the crime, her classmate Ricky. Imogen teaches him tae kwon do, and the two build a friendship that turns into romance. Skilton does a fine job capturing how a psychological process after trauma can take time and might manifest in unique, sometimes unexpected, ways. Imogen, for example, finally feels relief when she and Ricky roughly spar, landing blows and kicks that relieve their pent-up frustration and reassure both that they have the skills to protect themselves (when a gun is not involved). But even before readers are let into the characters' psychological spaces, Skilton tells a story of a seemingly ordinary sixteen-year-old whose life is not ordinary. Imogen's brother is a charismatic ladies' man who has begun to date her friends, her mother is distant, and her father's diabetes has forced him to rely on a wheelchair. Skilton reminds readers that while there is no "normal," we might still connect with a driven but flawed badass who is as tough as she as loving. Reviewer: Jennifer M. Miskec
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—High-school junior Imogen suffers from memory lapses after witnessing an armed robbery at a diner. During the event, she hid under a table and locked eyes with a boy, who, like her, was frozen by fear. The gunman threatened the cashier and was shot dead by police. The youngest black belt in her Tae Kwan Do dojang, Imogen is ashamed that she did not use her skills to prevent the tragedy. In counseling sessions with Ricky, the crouching boy, she finds genuine friendship and burgeoning romance. However, her guilt causes her to avoid the dojang and alienate friends and family, especially her Casanova brother, Hunter, who hooked up with her friend Shelly, and her father, whom she resents for being wheelchair-bound and unwilling to pursue physical therapy. At the breaking point, she delivers an undeserved punch to Ricky and is banished from the dojang. Poignant and emotionally raw at times and humorous at others, this debut novel adeptly portrays a shattered life in the wake of an unexpected act of violence and the road back to normalcy. Imogen's repressed memories come back slowly as the members of her support system face their own learning curve in how to help her cope. Fans of realistic fiction will appreciate the multilayered story, Tae Kwan Do action and philosophy, and resilient protagonist.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A taekwondo black belt struggles to forgive herself after failing to act when she witnesses the police shoot and kill a would-be robber. Disciplined, confident Imogen is shaken to the core when a man holds up the diner she's eating in and she hides beneath a table rather than trying to disarm the perpetrator. She locks eyes with a boy who is also hiding while an acquaintance calls the police from the bathroom. Imogen winds up covered in the gunman's blood. Realistically gut-wrenching weeks follow, as she tries to come to terms with nightmares, anxiety and, most of all, a deep sense of shame. Her fellow witness turns out to be Ricky, a new student at her school, and the two find themselves intensely bonded due to their shared experience. They eventually embark on a relationship that includes her training him in martial arts. Imogen is a refreshingly complicated and intense character, but her rigid refusal to forgive others, such as her kind but sexually promiscuous older brother and her father, a diabetic who is not taking care of himself, makes it hard to like her at times. However, her story is compelling, and readers will stick with her as new insights bring about a believable shift in her behavior. This distinctive debut will be appreciated by fans of contemporary fiction. (Fiction. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781419703874
  • Publisher: Amulet Books
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 227,848
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Skilton

Sarah Skilton lives in Los Angeles with her magician husband and their son. By day she works in the film and TV business. She is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which came in handy when writing Bruised. Visit her online at
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2013


    This was written for me! Im a lot like her too, and i do martial arts. I also grew up in that area, and I know that belts mean a lot. Its a very good story and very exciting

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  • Posted November 27, 2013

    This was a really pleasant surprise for me, because I'm really m

    This was a really pleasant surprise for me, because I'm really more of a romance girl, but I was sucked in to this book immediately - the humor, the unique main character, her struggles...definitely a sleeper success of Contemp YA this year.

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  • Posted June 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I learned so much about martial arts when reading BRUISED.  For

    I learned so much about martial arts when reading BRUISED.  For example, did you know that Tae Kwon Do originated in Korea? There wasn't even a colored belt system in place until the Koreans brought Tae Kwon Do to the USA, where people wanted to physically see a measure of their success. In Korea, you are a white belt until you are good enough to receive black. Here, there are colored belts, and when you finally achieve a black belt, there are twelve levels of black! Some levels take a decade to master. I learned all of this and more when reading BRUISED.

    Imogen is the youngest black belt at Glenview Martial Arts. She's still a teenager.  She's taught several Tae Kwon Do classes and knows how to defend herself.  At least, she thought she did. When a gunman holds up a diner, rather than fight, Imogen hides beneath a table. She feels ashamed and guilty. What's the point of learning Tae Kwon Do if you can't protect yourself when the time comes? Imogen disconnects and experiences extreme Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Therapy doesn't stop her daily nightmares. She beats herself up over and over. Not even connecting with Ricky, a guy who also hid in the diner that night, is able to help her overcome her fears and guilt. Why should she be allowed to be happy when she messed everything up so badly?

    Imogen is really hard on herself, striving to achieve the impossible. She's a talented martial artist, and before the incident, had clear goals. She loved teaching Tae Kwon Do, especially to girls. At one point, she states,

    "[Taylor] had trouble with blocks and counterstrikes because she didn't like getting in other people's space, especially boys' space. Most girls don't, and I wanted to change that."
    (pg. 17, US e-book edition)

    But after the incident, she believes otherwise. If she can't protect herself, how can she teach other girls to protect themselves? She begins teaching Tae Kwon Do to Ricky, but she's gearing up for a fight, one where she can prove what she knows. Imogen and Ricky experience so many extreme emotions and fears after their near-death experience. The psychological effects are enormous, but both feel safer when they're together. They overcame the odds once and they can do it again. It's nice to see a book where emotions from one another are due to character interactions more than an instant attraction. When Imogen and Ricky meet again for the first time after the incident, Imogen observes,

    "Some acne scars dot his cheeks and forehead, but they just make him more beautiful, because he's real, he's so wonderfully real, and he's the only one who'll ever understand. I'll be under that table, on some level, for the rest of my life, but so will he."
    (pg. 49, US e-book edition)

    It was nice to see that Ricky could be both attractive and imperfect. I appreciated the way Skilton slipped this into the narrative. It made Ricky more human and down-to-earth than many of the other YA love interests out there. I always love seeing scars, freckles, etc. on characters, because that's real.

    I was also a fan of the way both Imogen and Ricky have strong family support to fall back on. Ricky has his mother, but he relies more on his always-present abuelita. Imogen has support, too, but she doesn't take it. She's felt estranged from her father ever since he was diagnosed with diabetes and confined to a wheelchair. He's no longer the man she knew, and she's having trouble coping with the way he lives his life. Her mom isn't touchy-feely, and Imogen resents that she always looked away when watching Imogen do martial arts. And her brother...don't get her started on her brother. Despite the fact that he always helps her through her nightmares, she can't help but stew over the way he has dated too many of her friends over the years. She's down to three good friends, and it's all his fault. Over the course of the book, Imogen is able to look deeper and see just how much her family genuinely cares. I really liked seeing all of the family interactions in BRUISED. There's a scene where Imogen talks about the unique way her family makes cookies that's intimate and brought a smile to my face. Despite their struggles, this damaged family genuinely loves one another.

    There's a lot going on in BRUISED, but I enjoyed the journey, and really appreciated the way Skilton reflected realistically on the emotional turmoil of PTSD and the way a moment can utterly define or change a person. Imogen is forced to reflect on herself, both now, and in the past.  She achieved success young, and never realized the extent of the arrogance that comes from always being the best. Her quest for perfection damages her in ways that are hard to overcome, and her path toward being able to move on and be successful again is a rocky, emotional one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    BRUSIED is a stunning contemporary debut. It¿s raw, powerful and

    BRUSIED is a stunning contemporary debut. It’s raw, powerful and unique. Every sentence is gorgeously written. The characters are so real, each voice strongly defined. I’d recommend this title to fans of PUSHING THE LIMITS — emotional, romantic, faultless. BRUSIED is a strong compelling novel of guilt, love, and forgiveness, that is beautifully written and incredibly thoughtful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2013

    I got this book as an advanced readers copy through my work and

    I got this book as an advanced readers copy through my work and since the author will be doing a signing at the store in March I decided to read it. So glad I did. While I do read teen paranormal and fantasy I don't normally read regular teen fiction as I usually find the characters to be immature. That was not a problem with this book. I highly recommend this book. 

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