I remember seeing this title on Twitter awhile back and was intrigued by the cover and title. I added it to my TBR list on GoodReads. The book and author then came up again on Twitter. I reached out to the author/publisher and was lucky enough for them to send me an ARC. It came in the mail yesterday and I finished the book last night.
What It Is About: The summer after fifth grade for two boys should be the time of their lives. Baseball, swimming, and running wild. Owen and Sean have just finished fifth grade and are ready for "freedom". These two boys have grown up together and are the best of buddies. When Sean's mom takes a new job and is going to be away from home more often, she hires a "babysitter". Sean isn't thrilled about this since he is eleven and can take care of himself. His mother is worried to leave her son alone because of his diabetes. She hires Paul; a young man from their church that is well liked by everyone. As Owen and Sean spend their sunny days together, Sean begins to open up to his best friend about the new sitter Paul. At first, the boys just think these "incidents" are accidents. But as Paul spends more time "watching" Sean, Sean tells Owen more and more about what is happening. Owen doesn't know what to do, but Sean swears him to secrecy. The longer Owen waits, the more he is conflicted on what to do. He finally decides to take things into his own "hands" and rescue his best friend.
What I Thought Of It: I came to this story with quite a bit of anticipation. I had heard it was a powerful story and during some conversations with Tony, he mentioned this wasn't going to be a story for everyone. When I started the book yesterday afternoon, I knew it was going to be a reading experience like no other. Tony did an absolutely incredible job of telling a very difficult story. He handled the subject matter with grace, dignity, and sensitivity. This was an important story that must be told no matter how difficult it is to read. Our children need us to break the silence of abuse. The writing was well written, sensitive, but was real and raw. There were moments when I had to stop reading because it hurt so much to read about what was happening with Sean. It broke my heart and I so wanted to stop it. I've read many powerful adult novels about abuse, but I believe this was one of the first books geared toward middle/intermediate grade readers. There are young people out in the world that will need this story to show them they are not alone.
Who Should Read It: This is a hard one to answer. I know the publisher has marked this novel for readers between the ages of 10-14 and up. I'm not sure I would share it with children in fourth and/or fifth grade. In my personal opinion, I would say the reader should be sixth grade and higher. If the story is shared with a parent or older family member, then I think it could be read together. The story needs to be read with care and time to discuss as it is read. The story would be truly powerful for a middle-grade and/or high school reader.
Rating: 5 STARS out of 5 Stars