Review: I Stop Somewhere

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Review for "I Stop Somewhere" by T.E. Carter (to be published on 28 February 2018)
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I didn’t like this book. It’s kind of a mashup between “The Lovely Bones” and “13 Reasons Why,” neither of which I liked either. I read this fairly quickly, not because I was engaged with it, but out of desperation to get it over and done with.

Ellie is a quiet, shy teenage girl in a small New York town being raised by a single father. She comes from a working class background and quickly becomes enamored with a wealthy local businessman’s son, Caleb. From frequent flashbacks, we know that Caleb is not what he seems. He is cruel and sadistic, as well as the main perpetrator in a string of brutal assaults and rapes of local girls, one of which ends Ellie’s life.

The first 100 pages of this book are unbearable. Ellie is a spirit, trapped in the location of the last moments of her life, watching from the afterlife as girl after girl is taken to the same abandoned house and brutally assaulted and raped. She drifts back and forth between each act of violence she witnesses to narrate events in her former life, which quite frankly, doesn’t have much plot depth or character development.

Let’s pause and talk about this for a moment. This is one of my greatest pet peeves in fiction–authors who overemphasize rape and acts of violence through excessive narrative detail, with very little to no character development (the film equivalent to this is known as “torture porn”). It’s gratuitous, it’s voyeuristic, and worse, it does absolutely nothing to challenge the rape or the rapist, nor does it shift power in favor of the victim. You cannot conquer rape culture or violence through “torture porn”- style writing. It only serves its own end, which is to capitulate on the sexist notion that to keep people interested, women must die or be somewhere in the act of dying. It’s wrong.

Thankfully, the tone of the book does shift in the second part, which turns to the voices of the victims. There is a kind of reckoning in the end that’s somewhat hopeful, along with a thoughtful commentary on victim-blaming and why Ellie’s disappearance was ignored for so long (i.e., she’s from a lower social class and not from the “better” side of the tracks). I still don’t like this book though. Even though the sun does comes out in the end, there was too much bleakness, too much of a lingering dark cloud here. If I hadn’t have read the first part I think I would have felt better about it, or maybe even given this a higher rating.

This book is categorized as YA, btw. If I was troubled greatly by reading this, I cannot imagine what it does to the psyche of a younger person, who may or may not possess the insights to deal with this level of realism. Proceed with caution.

[Note: I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-Read Forever

Ahh…another Top Ten Tuesday. I’ve been away for a few weeks because the topics presented didn’t really appeal to me. But hey–what’s past is past, right?

  1. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison. I read this book on my own when I was in high school, and I must admit that it was one of the first books by a Black woman author I’d ever read. Later on I would realize that this was completely unusual, being that I had been through 11 years of education in school and none of my teachers had ever bothered to teach a book written by a Black woman. I was completely enthralled with this novel. I still am. This book is one of the reasons why I am who I am, a Black woman educator who is earning a Ph.D. in literacy education, to make sure that ALL students have access to books that are culturally relevant to them.
  2. Manuscript Found in Accra, Paulo Coelho. In this book, a philosopher answers questions from people on life and the connections we make to other humans and just existing in general. It’s a very simple format, but the knowledge it imparts is essential reading. When I first read this I was going through a hard time in my life and found this book illuminating. I’ve read it twice since.
  3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid. I’ve reviewed this here before and could read and review it again a few more times, just to give it the justice it deserves. Normally I don’t care for books that are too grainy, too ambiguous in their execution but this one is one of the few that actually succeeds in that task. There’s even a website where people can type around and talk about what they think this book means. It’s not the what or the how, but the interpretation of both that’s interesting here.
  4. The Color Purple, Alice Walker. This is the book I read after The Bluest Eye that continued to open up the world of Black women’s perspectives and ultimately my own. Even though I love the movie, the book is much better.
  5. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros. Every now and then I read this book to marvel at its beautiful complexities and remind myself that I’ll never be as good of a writer as Sandra Cisneros.
  6. Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, Warsan Shire. If you watched Beyonce’s “Lemonade” visual album, then you’ve already heard this woman’s words. Most of the spoken word on that album was written by Shire and published in her first volume of poems back in 2011. I copped this book back in 2013 after reading Warsan’s poems on Tumblr and kept it in my backpack for the next 3 years, I needed it that much. I read this book often, as a matter of fact, I’ve bought this book for other people several times as gifts.
  7. A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness. I’ve reviewed this here before and still don’t think I’ll edit it to say anything more than what I have. It’s just something about this book sticks to your bones and won’t let you forget it. It’s truly extraordinary.
  8. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White. I read this book so much as a kid that I remember I broke the spine. My mom bought me another one, and the pages became so dog-eared it was barely readable. Needless to say, I truly loved this book growing up. Still do.
  9. Wonder, R. J. Palacio. I remember reading the last pages of this book in a Panera restaurant and crying so hard that one of the employees approached me and asked if I was alright. I pointed to the book and told her, “you gotta read this.”
  10. Fly Away Home, Eve Bunting. The first couple words of this picture book completely grab you and shake your soul: “My dad and I live in an airport. That’s because we don’t have a home and the airport is better than the streets.” It’s a book about a young child named Andrew who lives with his dad in the terminal of a busy airport in an unnamed city. The ending brings no resolution but a hint of hope. Needless to say, its definitely a book worth buying.