- The Fall of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-3775-7 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-3776-4 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 9-12
When she was eight years old, Emilia DeJesus was brutally beaten, dragged into the woods, and only saved from rape and death when crows attacked her assailant. Unable to talk after the incident, she nonetheless was able to pick out Jeremy, a disabled boy who frightened her once, as her attacker. Now she’s sixteen and it’s 1994, and Emilia has struggled, mostly unsuccessfully, to recover. Her voice has returned, but her father has left the family, her mother watches her obsessively, and both her sensitive boyfriend, Ian, and her gentle older brother, Tomás, treat her like she’s made of glass. Beautifully written but ineffably sad, Emilia’s story is a case study of trauma and its aftermath. From the moment her reality breaks to the triggering event of a confession from her real attacker eight years later, the incident deeply affects everyone around Emilia, including the detective who too quickly accepted the identification of a traumatized eight-year-old as sufficient evidence to close a case. Emilia tries to help herself by breaking into the now-closed elementary school and turning her third-grade classroom into an artistic collage of her inner world, a strategy that ultimately helps her family more than herself when her dissociated attempt to escape from her reality ends tragically. Third-person narration [End Page 445] that shifts focus among the key players effectively widens the scope of Emilia’s experience while protecting readers, at least somewhat, from its fully immersive impact. Nonetheless, this is a wrenching, melancholic reminder that some falls from innocence are unsurvivable.