Fault Line

( 12 )


A hard-hitting novel that breaks open the gritty world of teen relationship abuse

Seventeen-year-old Becky Martin dreams of being a stand-up comic. She also craves the affection of a boyfriend. When attractive Kip, a rising star in the San Francisco comedy club scene, comes into Becky's life, she thinks she's found her soul mate. But she soon discovers that Kip has a dark side, and control and jealousy appear...

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Fault Line

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A hard-hitting novel that breaks open the gritty world of teen relationship abuse

Seventeen-year-old Becky Martin dreams of being a stand-up comic. She also craves the affection of a boyfriend. When attractive Kip, a rising star in the San Francisco comedy club scene, comes into Becky's life, she thinks she's found her soul mate. But she soon discovers that Kip has a dark side, and control and jealousy appear to be the price she must pay for his love. Will Becky find the strength and courage to get help?

In this powerful novel, Janet Tashjian tackles the difficult subject of teen relationship abuse from the viewpoints of both the victim and the perpetrator.

When seventeen-year-old Becky Martin, an aspiring comic, meets Kip Costello, she is caught in a mentally and physically abusive relationship.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An expert at balancing the humorous with the bittersweet, Tashjian examines a deadly serious topic."--The Horn Book Guide

Publishers Weekly
A 17-year-old stand-up comic, Becky gets involved with a guy she meets at a comedy club. "Becky's growing awareness that her relationship isn't `intense' but, instead, unhealthy is developed well," according to PW. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2003: Becky, age 17, wants to be a stand-up comic, and she practices her routines faithfully, performing wherever she can. At one of her gigs in her hometown of San Francisco she meets a handsome aspiring comic named Kip. Becky has always felt "invisible" around boys, especially in contrast to her best friend Abby, so when Kip comes calling she basks in his attention. At first she is sure they are soul mates; they are with each other constantly, though Abby and Becky's mother both disapprove of the relationship's intensity. Indeed, Kip soon turns from being loving to being controlling, and he even hurts Becky physically, when he is fearful of losing her. He is distraught each time, and swears it will never happen again; but it does, and in the end Becky needs to be rescued from his violent attack by Abby and a protective drag queen who is a family friend. Therapy for both Becky and Kip and a restraining order are the result; and Becky, whose life has been shaken as if an earthquake had occurred, heads off to college, sadder and wiser. This all-too-realistic look at abuse attempts to give both Becky's and Kip's perspectives; Becky narrates, but entries from Kip's journals are interspersed in the text, along with Becky's "Notes to Self." One-liners from comedy routines (e.g., "If a cannibal ate a clown, would it taste funny?") lighten the mood somewhat before it turns darkly disturbing in the second half of the book. As Tashjian (author of The Gospel According to Larry and other YA novels) points out in an afterword, she wanted to show both sides, and she succeeds in conveying what makes Kip initially attractive to Beckyas well as his genuine anguish over his actions. (The addition of some abuse hotline numbers might have been helpful, however.) This novel about dating violence and how a relationship can go wrong will be an important eye-opener for some readers. KLIATT Codes: S—Recommended for senior high school students. 2003, Henry Holt, 248p., Ages 15 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
I was getting boyfriend advice-good boyfriend advice-from a six-foot-two-inch man with a shag and a miniskirt. And this was the most normal conversation I'd had all day. Becky, oldest child of an affluent, loving family, wants to be a comedian. While performing at an open mike night, she meets Kip and is instantly drawn to him. She basks in his adoration after years of feeling invisible to boys, but is baffled as things slowly turn sour and Kip becomes increasingly controlling. As their relationship slowly devolves into violence, Becky must find the strength to break away, while Kip struggles to control the brutality inside him. A fairly well-constructed story with main characters that mostly resist stereotype, Tashjian's novel succeeds where it breaks away from the norm. Entries from Becky's ever-present notebook and Kip's diaries (kept on paper towel rolls) offer deeper insight into the thoughts of both parties than is offered in the main body of the story and also work to visually separate chapters. The violence builds slowly and realistically, allowing readers to understand how Becky could get into such a situation and have trouble getting back out. A number of offbeat elements-Becky's love of comedy and old movies, her father's nontraditional career, her "aunt" Delilah the drag queen-keep a dark subject from becoming overwhelming. Becky and Kip do make love, but there is almost no strong language and the violence is deftly handled, making this book highly recommended for school and public libraries. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003,Henry Holt, 249p,
— Snow Wildsmith
From The Critics
At 17, Becky Martin is a high school senior with aspirations of becoming a comedian. With her best friend, Abby, Becky performs stand-up at a local comedy club in San Francisco, striving to connect with her audience, perfect her act, and make it big on the comedy scene. After one of her performances, Becky meets Kip Costello, a fellow amateur comedian, and the two connect through their shared talent. The relationship takes an intense turn, and Becky begins to isolate herself from friends and family. Facing the demands of school, college applications, two jobs, and her future in comedy, Becky attempts to balance her life with her feelings for Kip, becoming dependent upon him in the process. When the relationship turns emotionally and physically abusive, Becky is forced to rely on her own instincts to turn away from Kip. The novel grants readers a glimpse into the thought processes of Kip and Becky, the abuser and the abused, as well as the resounding effects of such relationships upon friends and family. Though Becky's pursuit of a career in comedy frames the subject matter, the topic of abuse in teenage relationships remains serious and important for all young adults. 2003, Henry Holt & Company, 246 pp. Ages young adult. Reviewer: Amanda Humphrey
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Becky seems to have it all-she's moderately successful in her forays on the stages of local open mike night improv clubs, she has a loving family, and the best friend a 17-year-old could want. But her life becomes exponentially better when she meets the perfect yang for her yin, Kip Costello, a handsome, confident senior who seems to pull off his comedy routine without a sweat. The two are soon inseparable, leaving Becky little time for polishing her routines, for her part-time jobs and schoolwork, and, most importantly, for her family and friends. The balancing act gets even more difficult when she finds she must weigh every word so as not to spark Kip's anger. The second time he hurts her, Becky ends up in the hospital and Kip ends up in handcuffs. Readers will suspect his problem long before Becky does, but Tashjian allows readers to feel Becky's overpowering happiness and blindness to Kip's faults as they empathize with his overwhelming fear of losing control. Other well-written titles on dating abuse include Sarah Dessen's Dreamland (Viking, 2000) and Alex Flinn's Breathing Underwater (HarperCollins, 2001).-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Senior Becky Martin, who has a loving family, a terrific best friend, and good grades, is slowly making a place for herself in San Francisco's stand-up comedy scene. But she hasn't felt successful in dating until she meets Kip, another aspiring comic. In an absorbing first-person narrative, Becky describes her relationship with Kip in which he gradually changes from adoring her to becoming controlling and jealous, and then hurting her physically as well as emotionally. Pages from Kip's journal reveal that his father, now gone, had been abusive and that Kip feels like a loser and hates himself for hurting Becky. Details such as Becky's increasing distance from friends and family ring true, although it may still be hard for readers to understand why someone so seemingly well-loved at home feels so inadequate. While not quite as insightful as Sarah Dessen's Dreamland (2000), this should find a place in all libraries that serve teens, many of whom will recognize aspects of their own relationships in Becky and Kip's. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805080636
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 4/4/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,477,605
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet Tashjian

Janet Tashjian is the author of acclaimed books for young adults, including The Gospel According to Larry, Vote for LarryMultiple Choice and My Life as a Book. Disney adapted Tru Confessions into a television movie starring Clara Bryant and Shia LaBeouf. Tashjian studied at the University of Rhode Island and Emerson College. She lives in Needham, Massachusetts, with her family.

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Read an Excerpt

Fault Line

Take my life ... please.

Laughter is one of the only things in life you can count on to bail you out of anything. Even when you're grief-stricken, shocked, or petrified, laughter can bring you back to that place deep inside that knows there's life beyond your pain. I remember the day I learned this in my bones: my uncle Danny had just died, and my mother had spent most of the morning sobbing at the kitchen table. I was maybe four at the time, feeling more helpless than usual. My father had brought up some extra chairs from the basement for all the relatives who would be coming in from out of town. I didn't notice when I sat on one that it was missing its cane seat. PLOP--I went right through the frame of the chair onto the floor. I didn't cry; I grinned--the shock of the fall was a welcome surprise from all the sadness. My mother burst into laughter at the sight of her little girl sprawled on the rug, smiling. Which of course made me fall through the chair again. And again. It was as if I hadwaved a magic wand. Before my very eyes, she was transformed from a broken-hearted woman back into good old Mom. Because of my actions, because of me. Humor was something thunderous from the heavens, with a power to change things in an instant.
Of course, bottling something as formidable as lightning is a tricky thing. Trickier still to do it night after night. Most of the time when I'm onstage, I feel like an alchemist: mixing a little bit of this story, a slice of that detail to come up with a fresh and humorous aha for the crowd to enjoy. But sometimes you fall flat, with a joke so inert you want to hang your coat on it. Those nights, it's back to the drawing board, pure and simple.
Here's what I want more than anything: not to headline the Improv, not to join the cast of SNL. (Okay, you nailed me. OF COURSE I WANT THOSE THINGS. I'd be lying if I said I didn't.) But more than those--much more--I want to learn how to trust my instincts. It's the part of comedy I haven't gotten a handle on yet, although I work on those skills all the time. Where I intuitively come up with some thought on the spot that binds me and the audience together for a brief moment--I get goose bumps just thinking about it. During each performance, there's some connection with the audience, but I'm talking about the cathartic,spontaneous kind. The search for that link keeps me writing jokes, keeps me auditioning, keeps me hoping lightning can strike.
I'm like Ben Franklin in a storm, holding a kite, a key, and ajar.
Waiting to connect.
Copyright © 2003 by Janet Tashjian

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Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. What does Becky find attractive about Kip when she first meets him at the comedy club? What are some things Kip does that make Becky fall in love with him?

2. What are some initial clues you get that Kip is trying to control Becky's life?

3. Abby says to Becky, "You're turning into one of those girls we hate...A girl like Lynda, who only joins the living between boyfriends" (p. 68). How does Becky's relationship with Kip affect her friendship with Abby? What does Becky realize when she compares her relationship with Kip to Abby's relationship with Jacob? If you had a friend in a situation like Becky's, what would you do and say to help her?

4. Why can't Becky fully enjoy her time with her mother on the UCLA campus and at The Comedy Store? What does her mother mean when she says, "[Love is] never that simple...Being in a relationship is the most complicated thing in the world" (p. 93)?

5. What are some things Becky does to try to please Kip? Why doesn't she break up with Kip after he physically assaults her the first time? What happens to make Becky finally recognize that she has lost control of her life?

6. Becky's old boyfriend Peter says, "I don't remember ever being angry at you. You're too easygoing to get mad at" (p. 133). What does Becky's conversation with Peter make her realize about her relationship with Kip?

7. How did you feel when reading Kip's entries in his paper-towel dialogues? Why do you think Janet Tashjian included these entries? Do you think Kip is a bad guy?

8. In the author's note at the end of the book, she references a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association stating that "one out of every five" teenage girls gets physically abused by her boyfriend. Is this statistic surprising to you? Are you amazed that a smart, funny, ambitious girl like Becky could be a victim of teen relationship abuse? Why or why not?

9. Discuss the significance of the novel's title. What does it suggest about Becky and Kip's relationship?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2009

    Love-at-First-Sight (or not?)

    Stand up comedy is usually not a hobby that comes to mind when you're thinking about high school students. The first things that I usually consider as high school hobbies are things like sports, video games, or music. However Janet Tashjian brings to life a story of two high school comedians, Becky and Kip, in a love-at-first-sight relationship that turns for the worst in Fault Line (Henry Holt and Company; New York, NY; 2003). Tashjian does an outstanding job of bringing the sensitive subject of abuse, both mental and physical, into an entertaining novel for teens.

    Becky and her best friend, Abby, live everyday for comedy and perform at their local comedy club in San Francisco. One night they meet a "new guy" who catches both their attention. Even though Abby is always the one who has boyfriends, Kip falls for Becky. They hit it off immediately and were eventually inseparable. After dating for a couple months, Becky catches herself tip-toeing on egg shells so she wouldn't upset Kip. He suddenly got really possessive and was making all of her decisions whether it was for her comedy acts or school projects. She had to think twice about what she said and did around him. Despite her friend's and family's warnings about Kip's behavior, Becky ignores it because she thought their happy moments outweighed the bad. She tried show them how in love her and Kip really were.

    One day it got too far and Kip was mad she was leaving. As she was walking out the door to avoid another fight, he reached around and grabbed her braid and pulled her to the floor. He was very apologetic and was genuinely sorry because he even wrote how bad he felt in his journal. Unfortunately this was just the beginning of the physical abuse.

    Tashjian captures the emotions and the feelings of the characters. She easily depicts the trials of an abusive relationship from the first step as denial to the last step of finally getting out. Each character has very distinct characteristics. Becky's mother is a controlling lawyer with a tender spot for her children and her father is a practiced chef who relates everything in his life to food.

    Fault Line is an enjoyable novel that entertains and informs readers how to read the signs of an abusive relationship. Even though book is directed to a teen audience, it would be a good read for any one at any age. Tashjian captures the reader's attention and keeps it to the very last page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book, Fault line, is a wonderfully descriptive book about abusive relationships. When I first picked up this book, I didn¿t know what to think and as I started to read it I was skeptical. But, deeper and deeper I got into the book, the more I wanted to keep reading. The main character, Becky, becomes a victim of an abusive relationship. The warning signs didn¿t phase her. She thought she was in ¿love.¿ The thing that I liked about this novel is that you saw a perspective from both sides of the relationship. You read excerpts from Becky¿s journal and her boyfriend, Kip¿s. If you are in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship I would suggest you read this book. It showed me that even though somebody may ¿love¿ you back, it doesn¿t mean they have the right to physically, mentally, or verbally abuse you. Also, I picked up some warning signs that I could look out for if I am ever wondering that a relationship could possibly be abusive. If you have been a victim or are currently enduring an abusive relationship, read this book. I KNOW that you¿ll be able to relate.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2007

    Fault line review

    Fault line is a must read book.I really enjoyed reading it. In the book a girl named Becky Martin finds herself in a choice between her new boyfriend who has started to become controlling and her long time dream of becoming a comiedian. This book caught my attention because of it's true to reality story line. Everyday there is another person being abused and the person may never tell anyone what is happening to them, just like Becky in the story. Luckily she had a great friend you stuck by her even through her difficult times. If you read reality, this is the book for you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2007

    Read it in one night....

    this book was very good. i read the whole thing in one night...just sat in my bed and read the whole thing. I recomend it...its great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2006

    good book !! =)

    this is a really good book.... it teaches about abuse and that you shouldnt stay in that type of situation.... i liked how it had both point of views... it helped you understand the story a lot better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2005

    Outstanding book

    This book is a very good lesson for some. it talks about abuse physically and mentally. it might seem like love when you first meet someone until you really know that someone. but by then it might be to like.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2004

    Really Good

    This book is really good, it shows that things like this do really happen...What would you do in that situation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2004

    Wonderfully written

    The Gospel According to Larry was one of the most poignant books I 've ever read. Fault line is wonderfully written, from both points of view in the abusive relationship, Janet Tashjian works her magic and definately doesn't disappoint.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

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