The Art of Breaking Things – Laura Sibson

Skye dreams of being an art major at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) when she graduates.

I love to draw and create projects for the people I care about, but I’ve never considered that my art could create change.

Skye is the daughter of an absentee father and a mother who is frequently emotionally unavailable and/or drunk.

“Other families are there for one another.” I can hear the tears clouding her whisper. “Other families are normal. Ours isn’t. Ours sucks.”

Skye is basically a second mother to Emma, her younger sister.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to her age. Before … everything.

Skye tells everyone she’s fine.

“I’m fine.” Fine. My go-to nothing word.

Skye is not fine. Why? Mostly because she has a secret. One she’s been keeping inside for years.

I wonder how many girls finally tell their secrets and what happens when they do.

This is such an important book and I hope it makes it into the hands of those who need to know they’re not alone. Skye’s story felt authentic to me, from what she has experienced to her emotions and behaviour. I found it gut-wrenching and difficult to read at times but I also experienced validation whenever Skye expressed feelings or thoughts that have mirrored my own throughout the years.

Comparisons could be made between this book and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Both feature main characters who have experienced sexual assault, been silenced and find their voices through art, but Melinda’s story is not Skye’s. Sexual assault is not one size fits all; it takes many forms and while there are often many commonalities in both short and long term effects, individual responses can vary greatly. Skye’s responses differ from Melinda’s in a number of ways, though they’re all understandable and relatable.

Do I exist? Do I speak out loud? Sometimes I wonder.

I loved that Skye’s creativity is explored throughout this book, particularly when she describes how she would capture moments in time through art. The titles she gives these imagined scenes were interesting and helped to convey Skye’s perceptions and emotions at the time. While I could easily visualise these scenes, I wanted to see many of the finished products. In particular, there is a mural that includes a tree that I need someone to create; if I ever learned this existed outside of my imagination I‘d buy a framed print so it would be the first thing I’d see each day.

While I would have loved for this story to end all wrapped up with a pretty bow, it’s a more realistic narrative because it doesn’t. As far as we know, the perpetrator hasn’t been spoken to by the police or seen the inside of a prison cell, Skye and her family have not had any trauma informed therapy (or any therapy at all) and Skye’s mother has yet to fully realise the impacts of her emotional distance and reliance on her eldest daughter to parent her youngest. However, given the current conviction rates for sex offenders, it’s unlikely this creep would face anything resembling what I’d consider appropriate consequences for his actions. Also, because this story only explores some of Skye’s early life, I am at liberty to continue her story in my imagination however I choose. And in my little imaginary world, Skye has some wonderful experiences to look forward to. 😊

Content warnings include domestic violence, drug use, grooming and sexual assault.

P.S. If you are experiencing sexual assault or have in the past, please know that you are not alone. The full responsibility lies with the perpetrator; you are not to blame. There is help available and you are worthy of receiving it.

In America, the National Sexual Assault Hotline offers confidential, anonymous support to survivors 24/7/365. It’s never too late to get help. You can reach RAINN by calling 800.656.HOPE or online at https://hotline.rainn.org/online.

If you live outside America and don’t know who to contact, you can search for relevant help in your country at http://www.hotpeachpages.net.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In the tradition of Laurie Halse Anderson and Sara Zarr, one girl embraces the power of her voice: rules are meant to be broken and she won’t stay silent.

Seventeen-year-old Skye has her sights set on one thing: getting the heck out of Dodge. Art school is her ticket out and she’s already been accepted to her first choice, MICA. All she has to do is survive her senior year, not get too drunk at parties, and be there for her little sister, Emma. Sure, she’s usually battling a hangover when she drives to pick Emma up, but she has everything under control. Until he returns.

When her mum’s ex-boyfriend slithers his way back into her family, it’s all Skye can do to keep the walls of her world from crumbling. Her family has no idea Skye has been guarding a dark secret about her past – about him – and she never thought she would have to face him again. She knows she has to get away from him at all costs. But how can she abandon Emma?

Skye’s heart is torn between escaping the man who hurt her years ago and protecting her loved ones from the monster in their midst. Running away from her fears isn’t an option. To save her sister – and herself – she’ll have to break all the rules.

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