Gemma

Gemma

by Meg Tilly

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Overview

Gemma by Meg Tilly

After Hazen Wood kidnaps twelve-year-old Gemma Sullivan, the two embark upon a cross-country journey that tests the limits of Gemma's endurance. In scenes of physical and sexual violence, Hazen tries to destroy the young girl's will. When she does manage to escape he drags her back and threatens to have her arrested for the violent acts he performs. It is only Gemma's resilience and fertile imagination that protects her from the worst of the trauma she suffers. And, in the end, it is the healing power of unconditional love that gives Gemma the courage to speak out against her abuser at last and claim the life she deserves.

Alternating between the voices of Gemma and Hazen Wood, Meg Tilly has brilliantly brought to life powerful and unforgettable characters that will leave you thinking about them long after you turn the last page.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312605292
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 02/16/2010
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Meg Tilly is the author of Singing Songs (Dutton 1994) and Porcupine (Tundra 2007), a children's book. Formerly an accomplished actress, Ms. Tilly is best known for her role as Chloe in The Big Chill and the title role in Agnes of God, for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in 1986, as well as an Oscar nomination. She lives with her family in British Columbia.

Read an Excerpt

ONE

Buddy, my mama’s boyfriend, was waiting for me after school. Waiting in his old rusty blue pickup truck. Almost didn’t see him. Almost walked right by, on account of nobody ever picking me up at school before. "Hey, Gemma . . ." he called, and tooted his horn a bit. Boop . . . boop . . . Like that.

"Hey, Gemma . . ." And I’m looking around, trying to figure out who’s calling my name. Doesn’t sound like no kid from school. So I’m looking around, can’t see him because the sun’s reflecting on his dirty windshield and, yeah, I know his truck. I mean, if somebody said, "I want you to pick out Buddy’s truck," if they had a car lineup or something, I’d be able to pick it out fine. Bam. No problem. "That’s his truck right there," I’d say.

The thing is, I wasn’t expecting him. It was out of context. That’s why I didn’t recognize it.

Pretty good, huh? The way I slipped that in. Context. And I think I used it right. I try to work my spelling words into my regular conversation.

That’s what my teacher, Mrs. Watson, says we got to do. "Make friends with the words," she says. "Use them, feel them on your tongue, taste them. Let these new words I give you enhance your way of speaking."

Some of the kids laugh at her behind her back. They think she’s weird, but I like listening to her talk so passionate and earnest, her cheeks and the sides of her neck getting all flushed and red. "Language will set you free," she says, in ringing tones, like she’s a minister standing at the front of the church, preaching hell and redemption. "Language will set you free." She says it ferocious, like it’s real important, a life-and-death matter to her that we understand. Like it’ll save us from gangs, and no money, and no food in the house because our moms are out boozing again.

It’s one of Mrs. Watson’s favorite sayings. "Language will set you free." Says it maybe five times a day. Arm out, gesturing, hand all smudgy from the chalkboard. Or sometimes she pounds the desk when she says it, or a book she’s holding in her hand. And she really seems to believe it, so I don’t know. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but just in case she’s right, I work on my language, my spelling words, my vocabulary. I work on them hard, because I wouldn’t mind being free.

And that’s another thing. She gives us real weird writing assignments. Take today, for instance. She comes waltzing into the room. "Good morning, class." Nobody answers, never does, not even me. I would, because I like her. Like and feel sorry for her all at the same time, because to be honest, we aren’t that great of a class. But even I didn’t answer her, because I’m kind of cool. Not real cool, like "lots of friends cool." I’m more like "loner cool." People don’t mess with me too much, because if they did, they’d get a face full of fist. I’m a wild card, so people leave me alone, let me fly under the radar screen, like a stealth bomber, and I don’t want to mess with that, so I don’t say hi, or good morning. I didn’t want to look like a goody two-shoes, and just shuffled my feet with the rest of the kids, like I was real bored or something. Even though I was actually kind of interested to see what she was going to come up with today.

Didn’t let on though, just mumbled a little bit of a good morning, that’s about all I could get away with, and to be honest, it’s pretty respectful, considering what some of the other kids do. I mean, at least I was sitting in my seat, not screwing around in the back of the class, throwing things, swaggering around, pants half falling off my ass, pretending not to see the teacher come in. At least I wasn’t doing that.

Now maybe I don’t say it loud and clear, in a TV sitcom voice, but at least I say something. At least I mumble "good morning," because it’s more than most people do.

Besides, it’s not honest to say "good morning," when for most of us, most of the time, it isn’t a very good morning at all. I’m not complaining, mornings are generally better than evenings. That’s usually when the shit hits the fan. In the morning, I’ve got the whole day stretching out before me, shimmering like a promise, like maybe today something fun’s going to happen, something good, something exciting. I like morning—the way it smells, the way it looks, like it just woke up and maybe today things are going to be okay.

But this custom of saying "good morning" every morning, well it’s just not truthful.

"The . . . Topic . . . is . . ." Mrs. Watson read each word out loud as she wrote it, "Love. . . ." When she’d finished writing the words out on the blackboard, she underlined them so emphatically that a little bit of powder fell, like a puff of smoke, from her stick of chalk.

Then she turned around and faced the class, and the expression on her face was almost like a dare. I like this about her, that she’s so into what she does. I look forward to it, because most teachers, they’re too tired to care anymore, too beaten down. I can see it in their faces sometimes, when all the kids are acting out, screwing around. I can see the weariness, see them wondering why the hell they took this job. Tired out, pissed off, going through the motions like they’re underwater swimming.

Sometimes, I get worried that Mrs. Watson’s going to get like that too, all tired out, sharp edged, and bitter. I try to be nice to her on the sly, so she won’t give up, lose hope, and think we’re all lost causes.

"The topic is love," she said again, just in case we didn’t hear her the first time, hear the whole thing properly.

"We’re going to try something new today: Free association. I want you to pick up your pen and write. Don’t worry about punctuation, or spelling, or telling a story. I want you to write what ever comes into your mind, what ever pops into your head, write it down. The topic is love. You have twenty minutes, start writing."

She turned to her desk, like that was all that needed to be said, but nobody was writing, we were all staring at her like she was a freak show. Because she’s come up with some weird assignments, but this one’s a doozy. And to be honest, I’m trying to encourage her and all, but even I had no idea what to do.

"Love . . . ," Billy Robinson mimicked in a mamsey-pamsey voice. He started gagging, and his cronies were snickering, and then it’s like his face all of a sudden gets mad, like Mrs. Watson assigned this exercise for the sole purpose of pissing him off. "What the hell kind of shit is that?"

"Exactly," Mrs. Watson said. She’s not scared of him, like some of the other teachers. She just beamed at him and nodded her head, like he’d been real insightful, like he wasn’t being a smart ass. Smiled at him like he was joining in for once, and she was taking his question seriously. "Exactly." Then she looked at the rest of the class, acting as if we were having a philosophical discussion. "What is love? What does it mean to you? How does love, or the lack thereof, manifest itself in your life?" She nodded encouragingly. "Just pick up your pen and write. There is no right or wrong in this exercise. As long as you have written something on your paper, you’ll get a good mark."

So I picked up my pen. She’s the teacher after all.

The topic is love, I wrote. I underlined it. And then, that was it. I just sat there, staring at those words at the top of my page, stuck, couldn’t think of anything to write.

"The topic is love," I said under my breath, testing the wor

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Gemma 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very graphic but did a great job of putting you in the story for both sides. Would have liked the ending to be different it is a cliff-hanger with no closure.
Obscure More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book and could not put it back down. I love Mrs. Tilly's writing style, and the way she invites the reader into the character's big and tiny thoughts. She truly captures the mentality of a 12 year old girl, and I love the way the way Gemma's voice is projected through the 1st person narration. A wonderful, quick must read.
TrufffleBerry More than 1 year ago
I read this book after I finished Lolita, I was expecting something mature with some violence. But this book was sooo much more. It was a fierce book that was amazing, I couldn't pout it down once I got done with the first couple of pages, after Buddy and Hazen met and Gemma got sold, my nose wouldn't come out of that book. The obsession Hazen has for Gemma is stunning, chilling, dark and passionate. I was amazed, I love the ending absolutely, I was at first thinking maybe a sequel would be nice, but then I thought "most books like this are best with a cliff hanger ending". Only read this book if you can stomach it, it's a violent book that jumps right into it.
WHATAREYOUREADING More than 1 year ago
IT WAS HARD TO GET THROUGH THE FIRST COUPLE OF PAGES OF THIS BOOK, BUT ONCE YOU GET PAST THE BABBLE, YOU CAN'T PUT IT DOWN. I MUST TELL YOU IT IS VERY GRAPHIC, SO MUCH SO, THAT AT TIMES I WAS NOT SURE I WANTED TO GO ON WITH THE BOOK. BUT THEN I REALIZED I WANT TO SEE HOW GEMMA GETS THROUGH OR IF SHE GETS THROUGH THE HORROR. THE BOOK WAS TOLD IN A TWO PERSON POINT OF VIEW, WHICH I LOVE. THE PERSONA OF GEMMA IS RIGHT ON FOR A TWELVE YEAR OLD, SOMEIMES SHE LOSES HERSELF IN THE BABBLE BUT YOU REALIZE THAT IS HOW SHE COPES. HER MAMA IS JUST ONE OF THOSE WOMAN WHO NEVER SHOULD OF HAD KIDS, OR AT LEAST THATS HOW GEMMA MAKES YOU SEE HER. HAZEN IS A WHOLE LOT OF CRAZY AND THIS IS THE TYPE OF CHARACTER THAT IF HE WAS REAL (WHICH I KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE OUT THERE LIKE HIM) YOU WOULD REACH OUT AND SLAP HIM. MEG TILLY TRULY SURPRISED ME, SHE HAS A FLAIR FOR THE DRAMA! PICK UP THE BOOK, YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED.
Flamingnet More than 1 year ago
Gemma, a young girl of 12 years old, is abused by her mother's boyfriend, Buddy. Buddy sells her for one hundred dollars to Hazen Wood, a vicious and abusive person who kidnaps Gemma. Hazen embarks on a cross-country journey with Gemma in the trunk of the car with Boxcar Julie, her turtle and best friend. I enjoyed reading this book because of rich language and literature. This book is in two points of view, Hazen's and Gemma's. In Gemma's point of view, Hazen is crazy, obsessive, and abusive. In Hazen's point of view Gemma and Hazen are lovers, with Hazen's delusion of self-righteousness in kidnapping and repeatedly raping Gemma. Meg Tilly uses language and vivid depiction of certain events to aide her readers in using the mind's eye to hear, feel, and get a picture of Gemma's plight. Tilly achieved her purpose but left the reader to wonder what would happen next, but with the sense of not needing to know anything else for the story to be finished. In the way this book was written, I loved reading it. NOTE to parents: The nudity and mature content (sex, language) may make readers uncomfortable while reading the book. Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer Flamingnet Book Reviews Teen books reviewed by teen reviewers
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Alissa Cook More than 1 year ago
i couldnt put this book down!! its such a sad book but i really enjoyed the ending! is this a real story??
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harley666 More than 1 year ago
This book is a bit to descriptive for me. I thought the story could've been told with a bit more class. What kind of person can actually write, in detail, about such herendous things. Sentences were repeated so many times that this book could have been shortened to 75 pages if taken down to one sentence instead of repeating the same one 5 times each.
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i usually take no longer than 5 days to finish a good book depending on how busy i am. but this one, Oh My goodness! it was so hard to read. i felt disgusted by what he was doing to Gemma. I felt so bad for her. I kept reading like two pages, and i had to stop because of all the disturbing things it says. I recommend this book to mature readers, not kids in high school that think they can handle anything. GREAT STORY, but wouldnt read it again. I would also have liked to know what was his reaction when he found out that she ahs lost the baby and if he stayed in jail, and for how long!
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