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Young Adult Novel – Dear Medusa

 

DEAR MEDUSA

 by Olivia A. Cole

(Labyrinth Road; $18.99, Ages 14+)

Dear Medusa cover of mc teen Alicia

 

Starred Review – Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal

 

Olivia A. Cole’s YA novel in verse, Dear Medusa, shows what it’s like to be made into a monster when, in fact, you’re the victim—just as Medusa was. Sixteen-year-old Alicia Rivers dreads school where she’s branded the slut because she hooks up with random guys after being sexually abused by a popular teacher. This secret burns her up since she has no one to turn to: she’s quit the track team, her BFF dumped her, and her family is too self-involved. Avoiding where it happened leads to cutting classes which spirals into detention and thoughts of staying forever at a dead-end job; there doesn’t seem to be a way out.

Abuse is a tough subject to navigate but Cole captures raw, realistic feelings and offsets them with the beauty of hope as Alicia finds new friends and maybe even a girlfriend. Many issues are brought to mind, such as how we’re so connected yet can also feel hopelessly lonely, or how women sometimes tear one another down, then at other times choose to stand together.

This book examines what it’s like to be judged by how we dress or act. In the section titled, “Wolves love bus stops,” Alicia remembers what she was wearing the first time she took the bus alone and how men reacted: “Standing by the telephone pole that day, / staring at my phone, / I transformed without knowing. / Girl into rabbit, soft furred thing with belly / exposed, ripe for fangs.” Ultimately, it’s about accepting ourselves, rather than letting other people’s perceptions turn us to stone.

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YA Novel in Verse – Lawless Spaces

 

LAWLESS SPACES

by Corey Ann Haydu

(Simon & Schuster; $18.99, Ages 14 and up)

 

 

Lawless Spaces cover

 

 

 

*A Junior Library Guild Selection

Starred Reviews – Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly

 

 

In Corey Ann Haydu’s YA novel in verse, Lawless Spaces, Mimi receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday—a century-old family tradition for the women in her family. Mimi asks what she’s supposed to write:

“There are things you don’t want to say,” Mom says, opening the car door,

getting in. “So you write them down and put them in an attic

and then they can

exist and not exist,

they can be true and not true.”

Mimi carefully curates her popular online presence where she makes clothes “that people will notice before they notice” her body or, worse yet, comment on it. She keeps real-life friendships distant. Her close ties with her mother slipped away once Mom’s boyfriend moved in; Mom no longer turns to Mimi for advice, and excludes her from major news. To help process her burgeoning feelings, Mimi begins writing poetry in her journal.

Complicated relationships dominate this story including the power and burden of family. I appreciate the juxtaposition of today’s instant-news world versus the slower layers of older, hidden truths. The spare, poetic format serves the story beautifully. Multiple timeline chapters alternate between “Mimi, 2022,” and the lives of her maternal ancestors, revealing connections and secrets.

The author cautions that material involving sexual trauma, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and generational trauma are included. RAINN.org (the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization) is listed as a place to seek support.

Per the author: “I wrote about a lot of things personal to me — the experience of being my particular size and shape in the world, what it was to be an actress in an industry obsessed with telling you who you are and whether or not that’s okay.”

LINK: https://rainn.org/

 

 

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