Summary: When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is. At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.
Whenever I have read a teen book (or watched a TV show) that discusses an abusive teen relationship, whether it’s with physical abuse and/or emotional abuse, the same type of situation tends to be given: a girl is dating a guy who is abusing her and she is so dependent on him and/or is too self conscious to be able to leave him and the abusive situation. Alex, the main character in Bitter End and the one who is in the abusive relationship, is anything but a weak character. She has two best friends, excels in school, has a part-time job, and is an overall good character. Even though Alex states that she wants to be more determined like one of her best friends, Bethany, and doesn’t necessarily know what she wants to do with her life once she graduates high school, she is not a negative, weak character. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders.
With that being said, readers may ask why Alex would get wrapped up in an abusive relationship. At the beginning of the book, readers learn that Alex’s mother died when she was young. (Don’t worry, this piece of information won’t give the book away.) Ever since this tragedy, Alex’s father has been completely disconnected and uninterested in Alex and what’s going on in her life. She has also grown distant from her two sisters, so she feels unloved and lonely. Because of this, Alex seeks love and companionship, outside of the platonic relationship with her best friends.
As I said, Alex is a smart character and because of this, she has been a peer tutor at school. When a new transfer student, Cole, arrives Alex is told that she will be tutoring him to ensure he gets good grades so he can be on the school’s basketball team. When they first meet, Alex thinks Cole is cute, but doesn’t think she would have a chance with him. As time moves along, Cole does show interest in Alex and they begin dating. Although their relationship seems perfect from the outside, it is anything but normal and her best friends are concerned about her.
Even with the abuse, which Alex makes seem normal, Alex stays with Cole because:
1. She thinks he will change based off what he has told her.
2. She really enjoys being loved by him and having someone interested in her.
3. She thinks he could be “the one.”
As Alex and Cole grow closer to one another, the tension in the story slowly grows. Readers begin to learn why Cole is the way he is and also why he has suddenly transferred to a new school his senior year. Honestly, I felt as though I was on a roller coaster ride gone awry as I read this book. The story, especially the abuse, was at times hard to read just because I couldn’t imagine being in Alex’s situation. What I did like about Bitter End compared to other teen abuse stories, is how it accurately depicts why some people choose to stay in an abusive relationship. In Alex’s case, she wanted to be loved and thought it would get better. It is so easy for us, as readers, to look at the situation and think, “I would never stay with him!” Yet, as readers, we are not in the situation and we don’t necessarily know for sure how we would act if we were in Alex’s situation. Author Jennifer Brown includes an Author’s Note that has this same type of statement in it and she also explains how she majored in psychology in college and took a class on independent study course on domestic abuse, which shows she has a pretty good understanding of the cycle of abuse.
I won’t hide it, my favorite teen books tend to be in the realistic-fiction genre that focus on edgy situations, which is probably why some of my favorite teen authors are Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins. Jennifer Brown first entered this edgy sort of teen fiction field with her book Hate List. Brown’s writing flows naturally, her teen characters’ voices feel real and believable, and she takes a realistic approach to abusive teen relationships in Bitter End. I recommend this book to anyone who wants an edgy read or those that want a fresh look at abusive relationships.
I’m really impressed with Brown’s writing and story lines and can’t wait to see what she offers us next!
***I am having an ARC giveaway of my copy of Bitter End. Please see the rules below for your chance to win!***
How to enter:
- This contest is ONLY open to FOLLOWERS of MY blog.
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Due to postage, this giveaway is only open to
residents. This contest ends on ***APRIL 13, 2011!*** Winner will be e-mail and announced on my blog. Good luck everyone and thank you, in advance, for entering! U.S.