Stronger Than You Know

Stronger Than You Know

by Jolene Perry

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Overview

Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry

After police intervention, fifteen-year-old Joy has finally escaped the trailer where she once lived with her mother and survived years of confinement and abuse. Now living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in a comfortable house, she's sure she'll never belong. Wracked by panic attacks, afraid to talk to anyone at her new school, Joy's got a whole list of reasons why she's crazy. Slowly Joy begins to find friends and grow closer to her new family. But just when hope takes hold, she learns she must testify in her mother's trial. Can she face her old life without losing her way in the new one?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807531587
Publisher: Whitman, Albert & Company
Publication date: 08/01/2015
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 675,448
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Jolene Perry has a degree in political science and has taught middle school and high school. Her previous novels include Out of Play, The Summer I Found You, and Stronger Than You Know. She lives with her husband and family in Alaska.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

THREE MONTHS IN AND NO LESS BROKEN THAN BEFORE

I read somewhere that happiness is fleeting, but joy sticks with you, holds on to you, and fills you up. The fact that my name is Joy is sort of a lesson in irony.

I sit here because I'm still broken. I'll probably always sit in offices like this, because I'll probably always be broken.

Dr. Mayar—no, wait, Lydia— is waiting for my response.

"Joy?"

"What?" I wait for her to repeat the question, hoping to buy myself more time. We meet for forty-five minutes twice a week. It's a game to see how many minutes I can waste. The more time we say nothing, the less time we have to talk about things I don't want to talk about.

Her body doesn't move, her face doesn't change, but I can feel the disapproval sliding toward me in waves. "I know you heard me. One thing, Joy. One. You can do this."

You can do this, she says. It's so ridiculous. It's not like I'm lifting weights or anything. Like she's my coach, yelling from the sidelines, "One more set, one more! Push yourself! I know you can do it!"

What muscle am I exercising here? My brain? My heart? A combination of the two? Because it feels like a lot more of me is broken than just that. I mean, where do I even start? The thoughts swim around inside me so fast that I can't catch them or formulate them into something I can grasp, understand, or deal with.

"Joy, I know you're watching the clock, because you're always watching the clock when we're close to time. But, you're not leaving until you can tell me one thing you like about yourself." Her dark, narrow face is fixed on me.

This is probably the cheesiest thing ever. She asks me to come up with something often. "You have another appointment," I say. She can't wait forever.

She leaves herself ten minutes between appointments to make notes and prepare for the next. I know this. It means her time with me is limited. And that gives me confidence about my ability to drag this out to the point where I won't have to answer.

"Not today." She recrosses her legs and leans back in her chair. Sometimes I sit in here and just stare at her dark African skin. It's beautiful, like she glows from within. Were things harder for her because of her skin? I'm not sure. In fifteen years my pale skin hasn't helped me any.

I pull my arms more tightly around my legs. I look too much like my mom for me to pick something about myself that I like. Same straight brown hair. Same tiny little button nose that I hate. I'm too skinny, but so is Mom. Or she was the last time I saw her.

My head rests to the side to look at myself in Lydia's tiny mirror. I even have Mom's brown eyes.

"Okay, Joy, I'm not talking physical traits here. You know this. Give me something else. Anything." The annoyance she's trying to hide in her voice makes me hold in a grin.

"I'm smart. I don't need my teachers to tell me how to do things."

She chuckles. "I'm impressed. That was a good one." She runs a hand through her short, spiky black hair as she leans back in her chair. I love making her smile; her teeth are perfectly straight and white.

I thought it was a good one too. But then I realize, in a way, that it's a dig at my teachers.

I blink in the chair and feel suddenly that I'm back at my first day of school. I'd never seen so many people in one place. Mom's trailer would get packed once in a while, but nothing like the jumping and hollering and the sea of navy, white, and khaki that awaited me in the halls.

I looked at all the faces, the smiling faces, the groups, the kids who sat reading, the kids who sat playing on their phones, and I had no idea how or where I fit into any of it. I still don't.

"How are we doing with talking?" Lydia asks, bringing me back to the present.

"I'm talking now." I let my eyes rest on hers. I've been to a lot of shrinks since Mom was taken to jail. A lot. Shrinks that specialize in child abuse, that specialize in neglect. I've been to people who work only in physical abuse cases and people who counsel teens with depression and anxiety issues. I fall under every category. Lucky me.

I see Lydia because she's close to my aunt and uncle's house. She grew up in foster homes after her mom was sent to jail, so she gets at least a small part of me.

"Please don't make me run around in circles again to get what we both know I'm after. You've been with your aunt and uncle for three months, right?"

"Yeah."

"And have you and your aunt talked much about what brought you to them?"

"No more than we did when I sat here last week. She has my file. I don't get to choose what she does or doesn't know about me." I hate that I don't get to choose what she knows. Sometimes I wonder if she read it all right away, or if it she thought, okay, ten minutes on the horrible life of Joy tonight, and I'll do ten more minutes tomorrow. My, it'll take me a long time to get done with this large file.

"But your mom is her sister. And I think she'd like to hear things from you."

I disagree with Lydia on this count. Aunt Nicole drove to California to pick me up when child services called her. She barely spoke to me for fifteen hours on the drive back to her house. Maybe she was in shock, but she couldn't have been more in shock than me.

"Why don't we ..." Lydia's eyes go back to her clock, and I have to wonder if she was lying earlier when she said her following appointment canceled. "This is what I want you to do this week—ready?"

I just stare. This is the part of our visit that I dread. The homework part. Only she doesn't let me call it that.

"Talk to your uncle, share something with him."

I open my mouth to protest, but she holds her hand up between us.

"It can be something as simple as telling him about someone at school, okay? Anything."

"It's not like I'm the silent kid." But my hands shake at the thought of talking to Uncle Rob.

"You're almost the silent kid."

"Fine." I'm saying this just to appease her. I grab a strand of plain brown hair to give my hands something to do aside from shake and pull it in front of me to look for split ends like my cousin, Tara, is always doing. It gives me some time when I don't have to see the expectant face of Lydia. I know I'll just let her down. It's rare I'm able to do what she asks of me during the week.

I try to tell myself I'm doing better than my first few weeks with my aunt and uncle. I never knew what to say but I tried so hard. I was filled with yeahs and uh-huhs. It was so exhausting to try to figure out when I was supposed to talk and when I wasn't that I gave up—at least for a while. Mom was happy when I stayed silent and hid in my room.

"And I want you to talk to someone at school. Give one of your friends some kind of detail about you. And no, neither of your cousins count, and your teachers don't either." She smirks. Her weird smile is how she tries to lighten the mood.

My chest sinks. It's overwhelming, which is stupid. It's just that I don't really have friends friends. I mean, when I sit in the cafeteria, I sit with Tara's friends, but they're not really my friends. Trent, her twin, is always inviting his sports team over, and their loud voices and the way they push each other around ... I don't like guys in groups.

"Joy? Why does this make you nervous?"

I push out a frustrated burst of air. "I don't know what to say to people. I don't know how to answer their questions or ..." But I just trail off because I'm not sure how to continue. Even with Lydia I don't feel like I can say—when Mom had a group of people over, I got too much attention from the guys there. I don't like men. Why aren't there more all-girl private schools near Seattle?

"Why don't you play around with some things to tell people about why you're in your aunt and uncle's house? Nothing that's a lie, but maybe something that would satisfy curiosity. We've talked about this before, but I don't think you came up with anything more than you moved from California."

"I'll think about it." Maybe.

Now I get to leave. I think we had eight minutes of silence today. Eight minutes when I didn't have to speak and I didn't have to listen to her say things that make me want to run out of her office.

"How are you feeling with your meds?"

I shrug.

Since I was pulled from my house, they've all been sure I'm going to off myself. The docs stuck me on the depression meds almost as soon as I checked in. Maybe they just weren't sure what else to do.

"Let me know if you think something needs to change."

I turn to face her before grabbing the door handle. "You're the doctor."

"And I'm relying on you to tell me how you feel." We have this interchange every time we see each other.

"Fine. I'm fine."

"Joy." Her voice has that tone of seriousness that makes me pause. "I know you feel like you're not moving forward, so I'd like you to do one easy thing for me. Write me an email or write in your journal about what it was like when your Aunt Nicole first picked you up. Keep it simple. Talk about any part of that experience you want to, but you'll see how far you've come in a very short time."

I step out of Lydia's office overwhelmed with what she wants me to do this week. The letter or journal thing is fine, but the other two tasks seem impossible, which makes me feel stupid. She's basically asked me to say one thing to my uncle and one thing to someone I know at school.

I'm Joy, the girl who's so broken that the thought of speaking two sentences is making it hard to breathe.

CHAPTER 2

MY ASSIGNMENT FROM LYDIA

I sketch in the margins of the paper instead of working on my writing assignment, but something about drawing again makes me think of my trailer home. I scratch it all out, flip to a clean sheet of paper, and start to write.

There was no way to fill fifteen hours in the car with my Aunt Nicole, who I'd never met. I didn't attempt to fill the silence because I had no idea how or even if I should.

I also didn't know how to process the landscape. The cities, the small towns, the gas stations, the ocean. It felt too enormous to possibly be real. Like the National Geographic Channel come to life around me.

Over the week before Aunt Nicole arrived, I'd been taken from the trailer where I'd spent nearly every minute of my life, locked in a small room, and asked to relive almost every experience I'd had while with my mom.

Aunt Nicole asked me about a million times if I was okay. If I wanted to stop for the bathroom. If I wanted food. She was always trying to feed me, but she kept getting these enormous bags from McDonald's, and I couldn't risk spilling crumbs in her car.

I still feel this way. So far, this assignment isn't helping any.

I throw that last line in for good measure.

I ate very little. At home Mom usually had frozen pizzas for me, or sometimes I'd open a can of soup or chili.

I'm starting to realize how crazy it was that I ate at night after Mom was asleep. Or I'd get up after she went to work and eat standing over the sink so I wouldn't have to clean crumbs off the table.

Hours went by and we were still driving. How big was the world? How many places could there be? How far apart was everything? It was crazy to think about how enormous the world was as we kept driving.

Now that I have a grasp of what a short distance we actually traveled, that too makes me feel stupid.

I knew Aunt Nicole's house was just a house, but it was so big and too pretty—I couldn't imagine myself belonging in a place like that.

I pulled my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs, closing my eyes tight for a moment. The house and the kindness and ... everything ... were too much. Aunt Nicole talked to me like I was a three-year-old, which I probably deserved, asking me to please leave the car, and told me about how great everything would be with my uncle and cousins and a new city to explore.

I nearly left the car when she promised privacy inside. Said I had a bathroom attached to my room even.

There were so many nights at home when I had to pee desperately, but Mom had people over and I didn't want to be noticed. Walking across the hall was a sure way to get attention.

I actually asked Aunt Nicole if I could sleep in the car. That's how desperate I was to not move. I don't write about begging to sleep in the car to Lydia because it makes me feel ridiculous—especially now that I've been there for three months, and the house is no longer scary. But I guess that's the point of the assignment. To show me how far I've come. I'm reluctant to admit my progress, even to myself.

Aunt Nicole sat just outside my car door when she remembered that she'd forgotten to give me my Xanax before we arrived. (I hate those by the way. They make me sleepy and rubbery.)

We made a deal though, before leaving California. If Aunt Nicole handed me a pill, I had to take it, and I was given a number to call if I felt like it was happening too much or if I was uncomfortable with anything going on in the house. It's sort of stupid, really. I was burned and hit and, AND ...

I can't say the word. Not even in a journal. It feels too horrible.

... in my last house, and I never called anyone. It seems kind of ignorant on the part of the child services people to tell me to call if something doesn't feel right. I had no idea what to expect. Or what was normal. I'd only just learned that my normal wasn't normal at all.

I knew even then that my fear of that house might be ridiculous, but I didn't know how to shake it. All I had was unknown—unknown cousins, unknown uncle, and an aunt I'd just met.

The moment we reached the porch, the front door opened to expose a man several inches taller than Mom's last boyfriend, Richard, and I froze.

I make sure I write the Uncle Rob stuff because maybe Lydia won't force me to talk to him after reading this.

When I saw my Uncle Rob all I could think was please no. I know what he'll want, and I'm not big enough to stop him. Aunt Nicole can't have more power than my mom to stop a man that large.

Aunt Nicole threw herself into his arms and they murmured so quietly I felt like I shouldn't listen. A part of me registered that I thought my aunt was nice and that she liked him, so maybe he wasn't bad. But he was a man I didn't know in a house I didn't know, and maybe certain things were going to be expected of me. A lot had been expected of me in the past. I had no reason to believe that Uncle Rob was any different.

Uncle Rob said hello or something equally simple, but the lowness of his voice felt like a warning. Run. Hide. Only I couldn't just run away. I had no idea where I was.

It was awful. New house. New man. New situation that I was sure would turn out like my old one. I don't even have to exaggerate to show what a mess I was. This assignment isn't making me feel better. It's making me feel worse because I still don't want to share space with my uncle.

Aunt Nicole was nice enough to see how awful I felt and she sent Uncle Rob inside. (This is all making me feel crazier by the way.) Aunt Nicole brought me through a massive foyer in a house so big that my trailer could have fit in the kitchen. She led me up stairs three times wider than the hallway at home and into a room with its own bathroom.

My room.

That first night will always be etched in my memory. I dropped my backpack and went through the doorway and into my own bathroom. Tears spilled down my face at the glimpse of a life I knew I didn't belong in.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Stronger Than You Know"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Jolene Perry.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Stronger Than You Know 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
HelloJennyReviews More than 1 year ago
I adored Stronger Than You Know. I think everyone who has ever been through tough situations should read it just so they know that its possible to make it through anything. Also, as a warning, this book is about some pretty terrible abuse. So if you don't like reading about that then steer clear of this book. Joy is such a timid little thing. When we first meet her all the answers we get are through questions her therapist asks. She is afraid of her uncle and she won't look up from her feet when shes at school. She is broken.  As the book moves forward Joy goes back and forth from progression to recession. She moves so far ahead only to be knocked back even more by a word, scent, thought, etc.  I think Joy and Justin are PERFECT for each other. She calms him and he encourages her. He helps her move forward so much more than anyone else did I think. Well, aside from Uncle Rob. Once Joy started talking to Uncle Rob he actually became a HUGE character in the book. She was her protector and I think he needed her to be safe just as much as she wanted it. Most family situations like this aren't as close or there is a lot more stress and fighting. This family was pretty much perfect and Nicole and Rob has so much love to give. Joy got extremely lucky with her Aunts family. Seeing Joy open up and let people in is a huge deal. You get to see exactly what can happen when a child is emotionally and physically abused. They pretty much shut down and think the deserved everything that happened to them. I am glad she go over that and was able to thrive. Further along in the book we no longer see the chats with Lydia. I think that is because her talks with Lydia aren't as big an impact as her growing and learning to trust those around her. She is building other relationships and opening up to her family. Lydia was the way we learned about her but now that Joy talks to other people we don't need Lydia anymore to ask questions so we have answers. I feel like the book ended rather abruptly. Everything was ended in 3 short chapters and I would have loved to have found out her mothers verdict. Whether or not her and Justin last. And if Trent stayed the nice guy. I do love that Joy had a happy ending. Most kids in her situation hardly ever have happy endings. They either crumble under the stress or they try to end their pain in different ways. Sadly, as the author said, the inspiration for this story didn't end as happily.  Overall I gave the book 5/5 Kitties regardless of my unanswered questions.
lenorewastaken 4 months ago
4.5 stars — So what do I do when I finish an amazing book by an author that’s left me with a huge book hangover?? Pick up another book by that author that I’ve also been afraid to read b/c of feelz!!! Why am I not doing this more often? Because this book just 100% got to me, but left me with so much happiness and hope. I don’t even know what I’m going to do now… Joy was…Joy’s struggles were just heartbreaking, but also felt so real. I’m not saying that there weren’t fictional liberties taken with the speed of her recovery, but despite all that I really felt everything Joy was going through and all that she experienced. It wasn’t just a completely forward journey…she had plenty of setbacks. She even acted like a real honest to goodness 16 year old at times (and is it weird that that made me happy?)! There’s some difficult stuff in this book…there isn’t a lot of detail about what she experienced, but enough glimpses through flashbacks and conversations to give you a feel of what she experienced growing up. It was enough to not leave me hanging, but also to not capitalize on those horrors, you know? This wasn’t about that, it was about Joy’s experience AFTER the horror. Joy’s journey of self-discovery. And while there were many hard moments, I was glad to be along for the ride. There were so many amazing secondary characters in this story that just put it over the top. I think every great YA has a great supporting cast. What I loved was that they were all so different from one another, and they each brought different things into Joy’s life, and helped her in different ways. None of them were perfect…but they were all good. I loved that Joy’s therapist, Lydia, wasn’t vilified or glorified. She made Joy work for it, but she had compassion. Her new family was also the bomb, but not without their own missteps. It was so refreshing to read about a supportive family where I honestly did feel the love they had for Joy, but could also recognize the struggles they were dealing with in the background. Aunt Nichole was a sweetheart of course, but it was Uncle Rob that stole my heart. I wasn’t sure how his relationship with Joy was going to develop, but I loved his role in her journey, and I loved the way they grew closer. I just wanted to hug him so many times…he was gentle, caring, and he tried so hard. That was probably the most rewarding part of the story for me. And even though Tara had a seemingly small role, I really loved the friend she was to Joy. She showed Joy that even normal teens go through their own ups and downs. And Daisy was a riot. She was another flawed girl who had a good heart. I loved the connection she made with Joy. The only thing preventing a full 5 stars from me was that I didn’t really like how the Trent, and then Tyler, storyline played out. I get that we had a bit of an unreliable narrator in Joy, so it might not have been as bad as it came across, but the resolution was just sudden and unbelievable. Tyler was being straight on creepy, and he never got a talking to. And I never knew if Trent understood what Joy was trying to tell him about the girls… I would have liked a more clear resolution there. (and yes, I’m being vague on purpose) And that brings us to Justin. While it was very much a tiny side plot, I adored the romance with Justin, I seriously got so many adorable tummy tingles. I appreciated that they had their misunderstandings, but that their connection remained. Seriousl
ultralurkykitty More than 1 year ago
Stronger Than You Know is the story of Joy, a 16 year-old who has suffered horrifying abuse at the hands of her mother and her mother's boyfriends. The kind of abuse you read about in the papers and wish you could unread. It is about her transition from life with her abusive mother to living with her aunt and uncle and cousins in a normal healthy family. I really liked the characters in this book, especially Joy herself. I read this book in two sittings. The only reason that it wasn't in one sitting was that somewhere in there, I had to sleep. I found this book compelling and well-written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i have never read a book that i have related to so much. my heart aches for joy but i also love the absolute hope she has deep in her soul. i relate to joy in a way that i felt like i was reading a story about myself. joy was taken away from her mothers home because of some horrific abuse and is placed with her aunt and uncle who love her in a way that is unfamiliar to her. i appreciated this story so much because i felt like i was friends with joy and i also felt like she was saying words i could never speak out loud. it's hard to find books that can totally capture what it is like to live with the aftermath of abuse. i'm so thankful for this story and i really think everyone should check it out.
EpicFehlReader More than 1 year ago
This isn't the lightest read to delve into, but it's certainly an important one! Author Jolene Perry actually found inspiration for this novel from an actual court case that her husband served as prosecuting attorney on. Sadly, stories like Joy's actually do occur. In fact, some of Joy's experiences -- some, not all -- had echoes of my own childhood experiences, making this a bit of a trigger read for me. Though I had to take periodic breaks to get through it (even though it's not a long book at all), by the end I had been on such an emotional ride I felt I had to give this one 5 stars. Yep, it's one of those books where even though there were areas of the plot I would have liked to have seen better developed -- I was a little disappointed with the brevity of the courtroom scenes near the end, for instance -- I still consider it a solid 5 star read simply for all it made me FEEL for Joy. I loved Joy's inner strength, always visible to the reader even when Joy didn't see it herself, and her determination to rise above her circumstances. I loved the way she dedicated herself to living up to her name. I also got a kick out of the clever chapter headings such as "Sometimes there are no good answers", "Seriously, am I moving backwards?" or "Wait, Is this what it's like to do better?!" Oh, and I was tickled that Joy was given a slider phone as her first cellphone even though this book was only written 2 years ago... instantly made me think of all those people who lost it when Adele was seen using one in the "Hello" music video LOL
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So far really good sometimes hard to read and I totally teared up in parts but overall amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
# love _IT
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars The book jacket does not do this novel justice. If it was not for the synopsis, I don’t think I would have read this book. There is something about the lettering, the bright colors and the girl on the front that turns me off. If I compared the book’s themes to the cover, to me, it just doesn’t match. Her name is Joy and her childhood is far from joyous. Joy lived in constant fear, locked away with her mother in their trailer. She’s subjected to her mother’s many boyfriends while her mother centered her life on these lowlifes, leaving her daughter to tend to herself. How Joy ends up with her aunt and uncle is slowly pieced out as you read the novel but the emotional and sexual abuse Joy has been subjected to is obvious as she tries to adjust to her new surroundings. Images of her past life float into her mind, crushing the current opportunity of happiness that her new life is creating, it apparent to Joy that her mother took away part of her life. Joy wants to erase her old life, start a new but she needs to heal first. It is a hard subject to address and I liked how the author slowly pieced out the information to the reader. I really felt like I knew Joy and her emotions felt authentic. Joy had a lot of adjusting to do with a new family, relationships and with boys. Her relationship with Justin was a good fit, he had issues also and they both needed to find where they fit in with one another. Heading off to California, I really did expect more, I wanted to know the outcome. I felt ripped off when the book was over and I didn’t know what happened. I had traveled this far with Joy and although I knew she was not the person she was in the beginning, I wanted to know if she could breathe a sigh of relief or not.