The first person narratives from both of the main two characters run alongside each other and give us an intimate depiction of the daily lives and struggles of them both as two separate individuals, and also as two people whose paths come together. Short passages in italics at the start of some chapters hint at one person's secret history and draw us further into the narrative. The characters are well drawn, from Abby and Beth, Aunt Frieda and Ryan, down to the minor characters like Mrs Billington. Abby has mannerisms which she repeats and this added to the realism of the character for me. There is real growth and development in plot and characters.
There is an intelligent exploration here of the notion of someone who feels like they don't quite fit, like they are different, and struggling both to be accepted by others, and to accept themselves as they are. I felt the pain being endured by both Abby and Beth really came across in the writing. Abby feels inadequate and out of place at times, lacking in confidence.
The book deals well with how people have little confidence, sometimes because of past hurt, and the strength that can need to be found to continue, to believe in oneself and realise that you are deserving of kindness and love, from others, but most importantly from yourself. It was wonderful to read a story dealing with this. The book also follows through and looks at what happens when someone tries to help and it is misconstrued, resulting in rumour, speculation, incorrect judgments formed without knowledge of the truth, and retribution.
The story kept me thinking whilst reading and each time I put the novel aside I was thinking about the characters. The author shows insight into what is going on here, within destructive or cruel family relationships. The plot developed in a satisfying way. I empathised with Abby and was angered by how members of her family behaved towards her. It is a believable portrayal of sadness and hurt and although there are distressing moments and there is unhappiness, there is also friendship, joy and hope.
I found this a very moving, emotional book, and I felt that the sensitive and challenging subject matter, including self-harm, was carefully handled by this author. Empathy is created, the friendship between teacher and pupil is believable and it is carefully and beautifully portrayed.
I would recommend this book and I will be looking out for future work by this author.
You can follow the author on twitter @kbwalkerwrites and visit her blog here.
Thanks to the publisher for kindly sending a copy of this ebook to read and give an honest review.