Tuesday, July 12, 2011

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace (aka Mandy Hubbard)
Flux, May 8, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:
Tonight was so much worse than anything before it. Tonight he didn't stop after the first slap.
At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved — and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything — and everyone — in its path.
This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.
This was a very powerful book about domestic abuse that's told not only in alternating the past and the present, but the past is actually told backwards, so we don't learn about the beginnings of Ann and Connor's relationship until nearly the end of the book. This may sound like an odd way to tell a story, but strangely, it's an effective method. We're so invested in their relationship by the end of the book (and the beginning of their relationship) that it's easier to understand Ann's actions.

The images in this novel are frighteningly vivid and realistic. Readers will be drawn to Ann all too quickly, and your heart will ache right along with hers. In the author interview at the end of the novel, Mandy says that she wanted readers to have a better understanding of why people stay in abusive relationships, and I think this novel accomplishes just that. It's so easy to say, "If he hits me, I'm outta there," but the reality might be completely different. Connor doesn't have a great home life, and gets depressed very easily. Ann is the one person who is able to pull him out of his funk, and to her that's a sign of the strength of their relationship. Ultimately, though, Connor's depressions come on faster and with more frequency, and not only is it harder for Ann to pull him out, he's starting to blame and punish her for his depression. Still, Ann is reluctant to put herself and her needs ahead of his. It's truly a gripping story.

My only gripe is with Ann's friends. They know what's going on in Connor and Ann's relationship, although probably not the depth of the abuse. Trying to get through to Ann, of course, is like talking to a brick wall, and eventually they give up. Honestly, I don't think they tried hard enough--they didn't even attempt to get some kind of adult interference. Maybe a teacher or counselor could have helped them. Maybe not, but they could have tried.

Enjoy your reading!

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