Monday, June 6, 2011

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.

And here's what I thought: 
  This is a pretty thought-provoking story.  Have you ever seen someone who seems to be in a bad relationship and wonder, why does she stay with him?  This is one of those stories -- and it's obvious that the answer to that question isn't simple.

As you can see from the summary, this is Alex's story of how she falls for a guy who seems to be great ... and then who turns out to be pretty awful.   When we meet her, Alex seems like a girl who's pretty grounded, and whose two best friends, Zack and Bethany, keep her that way.  She doesn't have the best relationship with her dad and her sister, but she seems like she's got a good head on her shoulders.  So how is it that the winds up in an abusive relationship?   I thought Jennifer Brown did a really good job of showing us just how such a relationship can happen: gradually.   Cole seems almost too good to be true, but it's obvious there's more than meets the eye.  Right away, Alex's two friends don't seem to like him, which you would think would make her pretty wary.  But, whoever said that attraction was based in logic?   Even when Cole starts treating Alex in ways that aren't very nice, she keeps coming back to him --- because when he's being nice to her, he's really nice (and she keeps making excuses for why he acts the way he does).   

Lucky for Alex, she's got Zack and Bethany, who stick by her, even when Alex starts blowing them off to spend time with Cole.   These are the friends we all wish we had -- those that stick by us even when we're not being a good friend, or seem to making some bad decisions.    They don't step in and take her away from Cole; they make her realize that she is strong enough to walk away from him, herself.  Question is, will Cole really let her go that easily? 

I enjoyed reading this book, even though there were parts that were difficult to read.  I think this is an important kind of story, and I think Jennifer Brown handled the topic of abusive relationships pretty well.  She puts us in the head of someone who is in a bad relationship, even though she wonders how it has all wound up that way -- and I like that there wasn't an easy explanation, or resolution because that's the way it often is in real life.   I don't know if this is the book for everyone --- but I know there will be people who should read this, and who will benefit from it.

First sentences:   If I had to describe my best friend, Bethany, in one word, it would be persistent.  Or maybe unrelenting.  Or, if I were writing her into a poem, I might use importunate, because words like importunate impressed Mrs. Moody, and when I used them she told me I was a born poet, which was kind of cool.

Thoughts on the cover:
Perfect for the book --- the girl is looking down, and it's hard to tell if she's happy or not -- and the hand that's gripping her shoulder looks pretty firm.   Just right for this story.


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