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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Young Adult Novel Tackles Domestic Abuse

Title: Girl on the Brink
Author: Christina Hoag
Publisher: Fire & Ice Young Adult Books; First edition (August 30, 2016)
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Genre: YA Fiction/Teen Romance 
ISBN: 978-1-68046-339-2 (Paperback)
ASIN: B01K9L996A (Kindle)
Twitter: @ChristinaHoag
Reviewer, Marlan Warren
“Roadmap Girl’s Book Buzz”

Reviewed by Marlan Warren originally for Roadmap Girl's Book Buzz Blog

"I hope...he never calls me again, but he still owes me a big apology."
 --Girl on the Brink

Summary: Aspiring reporter Chloe (age 17) lands a dream job as a summer intern with the local paper in her New Jersey suburb, and meets the somewhat annoying-but-cute Kieran while she is on assignment. Kieran (age 19) pounces on Chloe, who is pleased to find a creative person like herself (he's an aspiring actor), and enjoys his lavish attention as a welcome alternative to her unhappy home life due to her parents' impending divorce. Gradually, it becomes more and more apparent that Kieran is emotionally disturbed, and unable (or unwilling) to control his need to micromanage her life or his extreme jealousy. At first, she thinks "There's no point in resisting," but by the time he's repeatedly hurt her physically and mentally, Chloe knows in her head that he's abusing her, but her heart makes excuses for him. Which will win? Head or heart?

Los Angeles author Christina Hoag has crafted Girl on the Brink as a "howdunit." While it is no mystery why the vulnerable and intelligent 17-year old Chloe falls for the initial charm of a potentially lethal 19-year old young man whose avid attention leads her into a summer romance, the real mystery lies in how the heck this otherwise sharp, but troubled, teen will extricate herself from what increasingly becomes an abusive relationship.

Hoag has grounded the story in the psychological reality of how abusive relationships can occur at any age. The episodic story is told in first person from Chloe's point of view, which gives it a kind of one-sided diary quality, but its use of present tense gives it a you-are-there immediacy. It unfolds the way life--and relationships--unfold.

This is not a "sleeping with the enemy" tale. There are no real villains here. Neither the sex nor the violence is sensationalized. In fact, the tragedy and victory play out with greater impact because "domestic abuse" is sadly commonplace--even though it is almost taboo in American culture to discuss it openly, especially with young daughters and sons.

Many readers may see themselves or someone they know in these pages. And to her credit, Hoag supplies a "Resources" list in the Appendix where teens can seek help if they are in Chloe's situation.

It is a well-documented fact that a significant number of abusive relationships are inhabited by two people who say they love each other. Girl on the Brink gently explores this paradox (nothing is preachy). And when it is finally over, a wiser Chloe states:

"I know it was okay to leave Kieran, and it was okay to miss him, too."

Abusive relationships can happen throughout women's lives in repetitive patterns. Girl on the Brink serves as a beacon that shines light on how to nip potential abuse cycles in the bud, and place high priority on mutual respect in relationships.


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