Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: But I Love Him

"Tonight was so much worse than anything before it. Tonight he didn't stop after the first slap.
At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved — and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything — and everyone — in its path.
This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong."

  • Publisher: Flux
  • Release date: May 8, 2011
  • Page count: 245
  • Unique elements: Story is told backwards from present to past and each chapter is labeled with a date and how many days into her relationship the main character (Ann) is
  • Would appeal to: Fans of serious contemporary topics
Favorite Quotes:

"But even when I stop crying, even when we fall asleep and I'm nestled in his arms, this will leave another scar. No one will see it. No one will know. But it will be there. And eventually all the scars will have scars and that is all I will be, on big scar of a love gone wrong."

"I want him to be whole so I don't have to try so hard to make him that way."

"I should have known when he said, 'You're so lucky I don't hit girls,' that one day he would."

"He squeezes my hand. I don't move, just let the car idle where we sit, somewhere halfway to nowhere but not nearly far enough away from everything."

"I wanted to be his life preserver, the thing that would keep him afloat. Instead, he became my anchor. And I'm tired of drowning."

This story took me by surprise. It's powerfully moving in all the right ways.

The thing that stands out to me, that screams brilliant, is that Amanda Grace wrote the story backwards; from Ann's worst beating all the way to the first day she meets Connor. I couldn't help wondering if she originally wrote the story forward and then rearranged the pieces, but because of the author interview in the back, I know she didn't. She wrote it with purpose, and that purpose gave it a punch. I won't forget this book anytime soon.

Here's what Grace has to say about people who read books about abusive relationships and their judgments: "So often, a person thinks of themselves as too smart to end up in a similar situation. As the person reads, he or she chooses a defining moment (often the first time an abuser pushes or hits the victim) where they say to themselves, 'that is when I would have left.' From then on, they place a certain amount of blame on the victim for being in the situation in the first place. By telling the story in reverse chronological order, it removes the reader's ability to judge the protagonist. They don't know the events that led up to the abuse, so they can only sit back and observe."

It's true-- we're all completely guilty of this. How many times have you seen a movie or even a person in real life and thought, "Why the hell don't they leave him?" (It could be a her too). Surely you'd put your foot down if you got slapped.

Yes, I did see Ann as weak in the beginning. She's lying on the floor amidst shards of glass and curled up in a blanket with the dead bolt locked. How could she put herself through that? But when you see glimpses of the boy Connor used to be-- his charming smile, his infectious laugh, his love of board games, planning surprise dates-- you can't help but feel sympathy for his situation.

Connor saw his dad beat his mom his entire life. His mom sat back and took it and merely tried harder to please him. Even though he knew physical abuse was wrong and continually saved his mom from it, those images and thoughts and feelings had become buried in his subconcious.

Do I still blame him for becoming a product of his environment? Of course. But learning his backstory that way helped me understand what growing up in a broken home had done to him.

Blake is a wonderful character. The reader keeps seeing hints of something that happened between Ann and Blake in the woods, and it takes awhile to discover what that is. There's one point prior to those hints where Ann looks into his eyes and sees the life she could have had and you know something's between them. If only we had a tendency to choose the good guy, girls, and not try to fix or change anyone:)

I fell in love with Abby, the strong friend who was left in the dust. The author did an excellent job of showing how, when one person consumes all your time and his mood depends on your actions, family and friends slowly get pushed out of the picture.

My heart ached at Ann's relationship with her mother. But in regards to their relationship, I appreicated the ending.

Something else that struck me was the way Ann judged Connor's mom over and over. She couldn't understand why his mom kept putting up with her husband's hits and abusive language. She pitied everything about her. Ann even wished she would pick her son over her husband for once. Then Ann morphs into a younger version of Connor's mother. The making up excuses, the remaining in an unhealthy relationship because he might collapse if you can't pick up the pieces. There is a great moment at the beginning where Ann is watching Connor's mom keeled over in the grass while Connor's dad is burning things in the yard and Ann knows her relationship has nearly hit rock bottom. She says, "If I look in her in the eyes, I'm afraid I will see myself." She knows her life has gone down the wrong path, but she loves him too much to leave. Interesting how she could see the wrong in everyone's relationship but her own until it was much too late.

Final verdict:
A heart-wrenching look at the whys and hows of abusive relationships. Grace manages to create sympathy for both the abuser and the abused, forcing the reader to take a hard look at any 
pre-disposed personal judgments of abuse victims.


Kristan said...

Wow this is a very interesting twist on a story- telling is in reverse. So creative and you made so many valid points on how it alters the way you think throughout the read. I really want to pick this book up for myself now. Great job Jenna!


Amy said...

Wonderful review! I've been wanting to read this one for a while now, and I think it's going to have to be bumped up on my TBR list. Thank you for sharing! :)

Giselle said...

Fantastic review! This sounds awfully good!! I love the idea of the backwards story as well I'll def. have to check this one out!

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Donna said...

What a wonderful review! Your acrostic made me want to read it, but this review just solidified it. I need to see if this ebook is available now, or if its available on audio even!