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 reason to breathe    Reason to Breathe, by Rebecca Donovan

I was talking to another teacher at Chaffey High, Mrs. Vanderbeck (who used to work at Colony as well), about the bullying books I was reading this year. She told me about one she thought was great, so I asked her to write a guest blog post and share the book with you. Here it is!

I just finished a book, Reason to Breathe, by Rebecca Donovan.  It’s about bullying and physical abuse, but from the adults that are supposed to look out for you.  Emily, “Emma” has worked really hard to create a facade of indifference to all the students around her.  She is counting the days to her “liberation”. The day when she graduates from high school and is able to go to college. 

Emma is a straight A student, editor of the school newspaper, is a star soccer and basketball player, all the while hiding a terrible secret.  Her best friend, Sara, knows that things are not perfect at Emma’s home, but she doesn’t know the lengths Emma has gone to protect her little cousins.  In spite of her best efforts, she falls in love with Evan Matthews, a new student to her school, who won’t take “No” for an answer. The book is graphic, sad, and yet allows the reader to feel Emma’s annoyance, curiosity, interest and finally the love she thought was not meant for her, at least not in her current situation. I really enjoyed it. It’s a fast read. I am going to put it out for my students so they might read it during SSR. –Mrs. Vanderbeck

High school housekeeping: I looked and I have one copy at Chaffey, none at Colony. So I’m adding it to my ‘purchase ASAP’ list. I also see that it is the first book in a series, so if you also enjoy it, I’ll get the sequels. –Ms. W.

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The book summaries are from the publishers–book flaps, etc.

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

Seventeen-year-old Matthew recounts his attempts, starting at a young age, to free himself and his sisters from the grip of their emotionally and physically abusive mother. (This book is a lot better than the publisher’s blurb makes it sound–link to my review.)

Bang by Norah McClintock (an Ora Soundings series book)

Quentin is worried about his best friend JD, who has taken to increasingly dangerous behavior, but when the two are involved in a robbery and JD shoots a witness, Quentin is the one that the police suspect.

Cuts Like a Knife by Darlene Ryan (an Ora Soundings series book)

When Mac begins saying goodbye to everyone she knows, Daniel becomes convinced he has to save her from hurting herself. Or worse.

Riley Park by Diane Tullson (an Ora Soundings series book)

The victim of a vicious assault, seventeen-year-old Corbin struggles to get his life back and deal with the loss of his best friend.

Tyrell by Coe Booth

Fifteen-year-old Tyrell, who is living in a Bronx homeless shelter with his spaced-out mother and his younger brother, tries to avoid temptation so he does not end up in jail like his father. (We had a copy, but it’s popular, so we got another .)

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Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott 

Deeply disturbing, Living Dead Girl was a novel I couldn’t put down. It’s a quick read—under two hours, but the impact lasts (and maybe the bad dreams do, too).

‘Alice’ is a girl who was abducted at age ten while on a class field trip to an aquarium. She is now fifteen, still living with her abductor, and looking back over events of their five years together. Although there is no explicit description, Alice is clearly sexually abused on a regular basis. Her abductor, Ray, likes little girls, and attempts to keep her very young looking through waxing and limited food intake as well as drugs that hold off puberty.

However, Alice is growing and Ray is tired of her. He tells Alice he wants her help inducting a new little girl into his warped world, where the child will be beaten into mind control (brain washing) and forced to obey Ray’s every command, just as Alice was. Alice hopes that having another girl will give her a break from the constant abuse. But she then realizes that Ray intends to kill her and dispose of her body once the new girl is captured.

From what I’ve read of real abductions, such as that of Elizabeth Smart, the details of this novel ring true. One of the most difficult parts of the book is how no one in ‘Alice’s’ world recognizes that she is being held hostage. They believe that Ray is her father and home teaching her although he goes to work and locks her in the house. She is unkempt, even dirty. She is too young to have all that waxing without parental permission, but the salon owner never asks for it and doesn’t wonder why she is there.

The thought that we don’t really see things that happen around us (as is true in the last book I reviewed, The Rules of Survival) is as disturbing as the horrific situation of these kids. Maybe reading these novels will help us to be more aware.

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