Knowles promises more than she delivers in her first novel, which opens with a bold move. Leah Greene is dead; "It's over," says the 17-year-old narrator, Lainey, in the first chapter. "And it's my fault." A lengthy exposition proves anticlimactic: years earlier, when the girls were in fifth grade, popular Leah manipulated ugly-duckling Lainey into secret sexual experimentation, then used their secret to blackmail her. Over the years Leah's control deepens as Lainey glimpses clues that explain Leah's disturbing behavior (she is being molested by a friend of the family). Unfortunately, Lainey spends too much time feeling contempt for herself to leave readers enough room to identify with her, and credible, rarely addressed issues get buried beneath overdone characterizations and unrealistic plotting. Ages 14-up. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Lessons from a Dead Girlby Jo Knowles
Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was… See more details below
Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn't Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.
Gr 8 Up
Laine, 16, has never fully understood why beautiful, popular Leah Green chose her as a best friend that day during fifth-grade recess. Quiet and plain, Laine feels awkward and unwanted in Leah's social circle, and the intense and often-manipulative way that Leah approaches their friendship makes her even more uncomfortable. But Leah is charming and persuasive, and when she pulls Laine into a closet one day to "practice" the sexual behavior that she says they'll one day use with boyfriends, Laine doesn't object. As the girls grow older, Leah uses the secret of their time in the closet as social and emotional blackmail, treating Laine alternately with sly kindness and calculated cruelty. By high school, Leah's behavior has turned self-destructive, culminating in a tragic accident. Her death sends Laine into a spiral of guilt, shame, and, eventually, clarity, as she explores their troubled relationship and finally confronts the painful events that led Leah to ensnare her in a cycle of abuse. The concise, clear style of this short novel belies the sophistication of its subject matter; Knowles sheds valuable light on the long-term emotional impact of child abuse and the roots of sexual abuse among peers. Her characterizations are sharp and nuanced, and she handles Leah, Laine, and the complex dynamic between them with respect and insight.
Meredith RobbinsCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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