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Reviewed by:
  • Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry
  • Karen Coats
Perry, Jolene Stronger Than You Know. Whitman, 2014 [244p] ISBN 978-0-8075-3155-6 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys     R Gr. 8-12

Joy was reared by an abusive, drug-addicted mother who forbade her to step outside their trailer and brought home men who molested her daughter. Now she lives with her mother’s sister, Nicole, and her family, which includes her uncle Rob and twin cousins, Tara and Trent, a year older than her fifteen. While she marvels at their kindness, she has a hard time trusting it until Uncle Rob confides in her that he lost a sister to suicide and sees in Joy, at least in part, an opportunity to be wiser and more attentive to someone else’s pain. Nicole feels guilty for not intervening sooner as well, and between Nicole, Uncle Rob, a therapist, and some new friends, Joy slowly works through the panic attacks, nightmares, and fear of intimacy that are the aftermath of her traumatic past. While Perry is careful not to be overly graphic about the abuses Joy suffered, she is not subtle about the residual effects, and deftly shows how seemingly insignificant everyday circumstances—a whiff of cigarette smoke, the smell of beer, the rumble of a deep male voice, being bumped in the hallway at school—can trigger episodes of anxiety and panic. Joy’s new family members give her space and support in equal measures, negotiating their need to protect her and her instincts to isolate and defend. Perry manages to convey Joy’s gradual growth without resorting to pamphlet-speak, but moreover she offers a portrait, rare in YA, of the way compassionate, functional families work and the good effects they can produce. [End Page 119]



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