I’m hesitant to say too much about this book. I was looking forward to reading it but I had some significant problems with its content. I don’t want to come across as mean because that’s not my intent, but I also don’t want to ignore the issues I found.
There are multiple 4 and 5 star reviews so I would encourage you to read those as well before deciding if this is the book for you or not. I know you have your own mind and I don’t expect what I have to say will influence you either way but just in case: I would hate for you to miss out on a book you may love simply because I didn’t.
Rowan has been living with the knowledge that she was responsible for her baby brother’s death for seven years now. She’s not alone in blaming herself; her entire family blames her too. Her father is controlling and abusive. Her mother is emotionally unavailable, spending the majority of her time locked in her bedroom.
Being in this house, surrounded by memories, guilt, and resentment – all those devastating things made it impossible to see the bright side of anything.
Rowan’s younger sister, Trina, has a reputation, her best friend, Jess, is dating a 25 year old, and her boss, Dan, is a creep. She has a crush on Mike but doesn’t think she’s good enough for him.
I requested this book because I saw that self harm was going to be addressed. This topic is one that a lot of people are ashamed to admit they struggle with. Reactions from people who learn someone self harms can range from disbelief to outright shaming, so I applaud anyone willing to tackle it. There are several instances of a character self harming in this book so if this is a potential trigger for you, please take care of yourself while reading.
The majority of the women in this book were either fat shamed, slut shamed or portrayed as victims. The men seemed to either be saviours or perpetrators. Most of the characters felt two dimensional and the descriptions were quite repetitive.
The first time I found out Jess’ hair colour was cherry red I pictured it in my mind; after the fourth time I was keen to learn something new about her. Similarly repetitive but more offensive descriptions followed Rowan’s mother and sister. If Rowan’s mother was ever mentioned without a fat shaming comment attached it didn’t stand out enough for me to remember. Rowan’s sister was slut shamed throughout the book and her redeeming qualities, which I’m certain she had because we all have at least one, are a mystery to me.
Rowan’s traumatic experiences may account for some of this but it felt like I was reading about a main character who was 13 or 14, not a few weeks away from 18.
I tend to gravitate to YA books that include social issues but sometimes so many are mentioned that it can feel like social issue soup. A lot of really important themes were mentioned but I don’t think it’s possible to do all of them justice in such a short book. The sensitivity I expected to accompany such issues wasn’t always apparent.
I don’t understand why Aidan’s true cause of death wouldn’t have been obvious during his autopsy. I also had trouble believing that Rowan would forget the anniversary of her brother’s death. I would like some resolution about Trina’s story – did anyone ever offer her any help or compassion? I don’t care what’s she’s done – the response to her attempting suicide should never have been “Did it matter at all if my sister didn’t make it?”. I expect some of my unanswered questions will be addressed in the sequel but I don’t think I will be continuing this series.
Content warnings include alcoholism, depression, domestic violence, fat shaming, mention of sexual assault, miscarriage, neglect, physical abuse, racism, self harm, slut shaming and suicide attempts.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and BHC Press for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
When the darkness is too great,
When the pain is too real,
There is nothing but sharp edges,
To remind me that I am alive.
Seven years ago, an innocent act by Rowan Slone turned her life into a nightmare. Since the age of ten she’s lived with the burden of her baby brother’s death. Now she is seventeen and all she wants to do is graduate high school, go to college, and escape the loveless family she has endured all these years – the same family that holds her responsible for his death. But no one holds her responsible more than herself.
When long-time crush Mike Anderson invites her to the Prom, suddenly her future looks brighter. Rowan’s younger sister, Trina, however, is determined to ruin her new-found happiness, no matter the cost. And when Rowan discovers her mother’s long-held secret, she finds herself teetering on the edge of an abyss.
Can Rowan find the strength to move toward the future or is she doomed to dwell in the past?