“Girls cry on park benches. Girls cry in train station waiting rooms. They cry on the dance floor of clubs. Girls cry at the bus stop. Girls cry at the back of lessons. They sit on the pavement and cry on cold concrete at two am, their shoes held in their hands. Girls cry in school bathroom. Girls cry on bridges. They cry on the stairs of house parties.
This is the story of one.
What keeps making her cry?
Or is a better question: Who?”
So, this is my first young adult novel, since I probably was one, however, I don’t think this should deter anyone from reading it because the message is so important no matter what age you are.
It’s the story of Amelie, she’s left her friends in Sheffield and moved to a new town with her parents. Lonely and vulnerable, she falls for Reese and falls hard.
He’s popular, charming, good looking and makes a big play for her. Her new friends warn her, he’s got a reputation, often labelling his exes as crazy.
She thinks it is love but is beginning to see that love isn’t supposed to feel like this. It leads to her retracing the steps of their relationship and visiting all the places he made her cry.
This isn’t a light, fluffy, read. It isn’t a ‘girl gets dumped, meets nice guy who was there all along and everything turns out alright in the end’ story. It is very dark; it looks at manipulation, mental abuse and sexual assault. It’s taken me well over a week to digest it and write about it.
Every teenager should be made to read this book, it is a vital lesson in spotting coercive, controlling relationships and the sooner teenagers are taught about this, the better.
The sooner there’s a more open dialogue around domestic abuse from an earlier age, the sooner we may actually start to solve the problem.
The sooner this behaviour is called out, the sooner statistics around abuse may actually improve.
Abuse isn’t an exclusively adult issue, in fact research carried out by Women’s Aid last year found that 64% of teenage girls questioned had suffered abusive behaviour, however, many of them didn’t recognise it at the time.
We’ve had the law changes around coercive control – now it is time to educate our young people, so they recognise respect and learn to respect each other.
“Abuse is also when your personality is attacked, not just your body. Abuse is feeling like you constantly have to walk on eggshells around the person you’re supposed to love. Abuse is being cut off from your friends, even if you could never prove it was their idea you did it. Abuse is being made to feel you’re going crazy. Abuse is being lured in with grand promises and wild declarations of love that can never be sustained. Abuse is being pushed into doing sexual things you’re not comfortable with. That is also called rape, another word that has taken me some time to feel belongs to me. Abuse is intentionally humiliating you. Abuse is constantly blaming you for everything, and never them.” Holly Bourne
It’s a really uncomfortable read as Amelie is isolated from friends, belittled for being herself, made out to be crazy, left questioning herself and fighting to regain control of her life.
It’s after the event that she begins to be able to point out the red flags – casual ownership, love bombing, talk of chemistry, the hijacking of her big moment (I was furious with at that one).
Over the space of weeks and months, Reese breaks down her confidence and criticises her for being herself at time when she’s already feeling adrift.
His mood swings leave her questioning her own behaviour, wondering what she’s done wrong and she slowly goes from standing up for herself to accepting the put downs, the subtle digs, the mental abuse and eventual assault.
“I wonder how many times in a given second girls are told that their guts are wrong? Told that our tummies are misfiring, like wayward fireworks. No, no, no dear, it’s not like that at all. Where did you get that from? I promise you that’s not the case. You are overreacting. You are crazy. You are insecure. You are being a silly little thing. And then, days or weeks or even years later, we look back on The Bad Thing that happened to us because we ignored the signs and we say to ourselves I wish I had listened to my gut.” Holly Bourne
I’ve seen a few reviews that criticise how this book is written, that it appears to place blame on victims as Amelie blames herself for what happened to her. I would argue that’s a realistic way of showing how long it takes survivors of abuse to come to terms with what happened. Amelie was never going to walk away with new-found strength overnight, her entire journey is about soul searching, it takes her time to see that she was not the one at fault. Having her bounce back in no time at all would – in my opinion – demean the serious nature of abuse, having worked with women on this in the past I have learnt that the mental scars take months, if not years to heal.
It also takes her time to look at and see her relationship with Reese for what it is, it’s about her learning not to romanticise the early days and actually see the red flags for what they are.
“One of the things the brain does to feel safe, is it creates an intense bond with the person who hurts us. It’s the egos way of protecting itself.” Holly Bourne
It is about Amelie finding herself again, regaining that belief in herself and ultimately forgiving herself – that’s no easy thing to do.
It isn’t an easy read – in places it’s downright horrific. I want to thrust a copy into the hand of every teenager in the country.
Boys and girls – stop idolising the narcissistic maniacs who push the “she’s a pyscho” line. Be better than that, care for each other, respect each other.
Know your worth, listen to your gut, listen to your friends and always beware the man who labels other women a pyscho – it’s usually a very big give away.
If you need help please visit Women’s Aid or call the National Domestic Abuse hotline on 0800 2000 247 or speak to someone who can help,
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm