Welcome to Wednesday! I have a great post and book today! I will be the first to admit, shallow as it sounds, when I first encountered the book Bruised by Sarah Skilton, I kind of blew it off since the cover is so simple and didn't scream read me. Then thanks to two great reviews from fellow bloggers, Lauren and Maja, I decided to give this one a chance, and I am so glad that I did. Bruised tells the story of a young lady who has spent her entire life working toward her black belt, but just when she realizes her dream disaster strikes and she is left questioning everything she worked for, and her entire identity. A thought provoking read for sure. I had to invite Sarah here today after reading this one! Let me tell you a bit about Sarah:
Sarah Skilton lives in California with her magician husband and their son. By day she works in the film and TV business. She is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which came in handy when writing Bruised. Visit her online at on her website as well her blog and Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.
Bruised is Sarah's debut novel.
Here is Sarah to discuss with you girls as fighters in YA.
Girls in YA: Better to be a Lover or a Fighter?
When 16-year-old Imogen witnesses a hold-up in a diner that ends in a deadly shootout, she blames herself for not preventing the tragedy. Why does she blame herself? Because she’s a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and she’s always believed her training made her stronger and more capable than the average teen. As the weeks pass, and post-traumatic stress disorder sets in, Imogen becomes obsessed with the idea of being in a real fight (no protective gear, no rules) to prove to herself that her black belt still has meaning.
Because girls are taught from a young age to be sweet, polite and, above all, likable, it can be jarring to read about a girl who longs to be in a fight. It makes readers uncomfortable. And yet, we presumably don’t want girls to be helpless, either.
When a boy fights -- especially if it’s to stand up for himself or a friend -- it’s considered a positive rite of passage. Boys are frequently bruised and bloodied during sports as well. Girls are taught that it’s ugly to roughhouse or be physical. (“You look like a tomboy.” “That’s not pretty, it’s unladylike.”) This message goes double for Imogen because Tae Kwon Do is a sport AND self-defense/fighting. For her, there’s honor and strength in being dirty or bruised -- proof that you’ve endured something and survived. As Imogen reminds her parents, “It’s not sticker collecting.”
In Imogen’s martial arts class, sparring is (understandably) regulated, with helmets and soft floor mats, so it doesn’t necessarily translate to the real world. There are time-outs and rules, such as “no hitting the face,” that lead Imogen to wonder: How is she supposed to defend herself if she’s never given or taken a punch? Without the confidence that comes from experience, many girls and women go into shock the first time they’re presented with violence.
Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games is sometimes criticized for being too cold, too much of a warrior, etc., but I never see her male cohorts described that way.
If Imogen were a boy, would her desire to fight be, if not commended, at least more easily understood by the people in her life? On the other hand, maybe her friends and family would expect a boy to “get over” the shooting faster. (You know, because guys aren’t supposed to let emotions bother them.) What it means to be a man and be hurt by something that’s happened to you and what it means to be a woman in the same circumstance elicit different responses, for better and for worse.
In my next YA book, HIGH AND DRY (Amulet Books, 2014), the main character is an 18-year-old boy who plays soccer. It’ll be interesting to see if his gender affects the ways in which he’s perceived by the people in his life (and by readers!). Will he be given more leeway, or less, in his actions? Stay tuned...
Once again, some fascinating discussion points. It shows us how far girls have come, but
still how far we have to go.....Thanks, Sarah for sharing your thoughts here today! I can't wait to read your next book. The lovely and talented Sarah comes bearing a gift for all you wonderful readers! Sarah is offering a signed copy of Bruised to one lucky winner, and she has graciously and generously opened this to everyone! Fill out the Rafflcopter to enter. Don't hesitate get your copy of Bruised immediately!
Here is my review:
Bruised by Sarah Skilton
When Imogen, a sixteen-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do, freezes during a holdup at a local diner, the gunman is shot and killed by the police, and she blames herself for his death. Before the shooting, she believed that her black belt made her stronger than everyone else -- more responsible, more capable. But now her sense of self has been challenged and she must rebuild her life, a process that includes redefining her relationship with her family and navigating first love with the boy who was at the diner with her during the shootout. With action, romance, and a complex heroine, Bruised introduces a vibrant new voice to the young adult world -- full of dark humor and hard truths.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Amulet/Abrams
Four stars: A riveting read that really packs an emotional punch!
Imogen is getting ready to head home after a fun Friday night. Her friend, Gretchen, just needs to duck into the bathroom before they leave. Imogen waits in the booth of the nearly deserted diner. Without warning, a crazed masked man enters the diner waving a gun and demanding money. Imogen instinctively dives under the table. As she huddles on the floor, she catches the eye of a boy, about her age, across from her. He, too, is crouched beneath the table. They lock eyes and wait. What seems like an eternity passes in a blink, and the next thing Imogen remembers is being covered with blood and gore as she is carted away in the back of a police car. Her initial shock nearly immobilizes her, but when the terror begins to fade, she is wracked with guilt. Imogen is a black belt in Tae Kwan Do. She has spent her entire life training for a chance to fight, and when that moment came she couldn't act because she was paralyzed with fear. Now everything she worked for feels meaningless and her identity feels like a lie. What do you do when one of the most important things in your life is stripped away?
What I Liked:
- Wow! This little book really packs a punch. I was blown away by the depth of emotions explored in this one. It begins with the frightening night in the diner when Imogen is confronted by a gunman, and it ends in violence. Imogen's initial reaction is shock. Once the terror fades, she is left in a puddle of emotion. This book explores what it is like for someone who lives through a traumatic event and then suffers the devastating aftermath. Imogen develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and this book takes you through all the emotion and feelings that go along with it. It was frightening to watch Imogen flounder as she loses sight of her goals and everything she once believed in. She becomes angry, and lost and she begins to lash out against those who love her the most, until she is nearly alone. Slowly, through time and counseling she claws her way back. It isn't an easy journey and I appreciated that I was along for the ride. This book was truly an eye opening experience.
- The romance in this one is very realistic. Imogen forms a bond with the boy who survived the attack in the diner with her. They become very close because they have a quiet understanding between them: they both survived and did it together. However, things are not all butterflies and kisses. The new romance begins to falter as the two struggle to get past the trauma they witnessed. In the end, I appreciated that it remained real and there were plenty of ups and downs. The scene before the prom was intense and funny at the same time. It is something you must read for yourself.
- This book presented a very thought provoking topic: what happens when your identity is stripped away? For Imogen her failure to use her Tae Kwan Do skills and act when it really mattered causes her to give up the one thing that had completely defined her life because she felt like she was living a lie. It isn't something you think about often, but what would you do if one of the things that defines you is suddenly taken away? You would experience sadness, anger and a whole range of emotions, but the most important thing is how would you get past it and redefine yourself? I loved that this book made me think!
- I liked that this book kept me in suspense. Imogen suffers amnesia after the incident and it takes time for her to recover her memory of what went down that night at the diner. I liked that I was blind like Imogen and had to keep reading to learn what really happened in the diner. Ms. Skilton continues to throw out crumbs of information as you go, and I was most anxious to have all the pieces and learn the truth.
- Imogen undergoes a significant change. Before the event, she was confident and secure with herself. She lived and breathed for Tae Kwan Do. She had a wonderful best friend, Sarah and everything was good. Unfortunately, her friendship falters, and then she loses sight of her goals and everything she worked for. Soon she is lost, angry and unable to cope. Along the way, Imogen begins to see things in a different light, and realizes that she might have been a bit cocky and perhaps she made a mistake when it came to her friendship. By the end of the book, she has come along way, but she is still scrambling to find her path. Things aren't perfect by the end, but they are better.
- It was interesting to explore the differences in societal reactions to girls acting out and fighting vs. boys. I guess I never thought about it before, but for a boy it is normal to get into fights and scuffles while girls are not supposed to fight. If a girl hits someone she is crazy, angry or has issues, while a boy is just doing what is normal. No one thinks twice when boys get into punching matches, but if it is a girl it is entirely different matter.
- This was Ms. Skilton's debut novel and I can honestly say I was thoroughly impressed. She does a tremendous job in taking us through all the emotions and everything that goes along with PTSD. Definitely get this one if you are looking for a great debut author in 2013.
And The Not So Much:
- I hate to sound so shallow, but I think the cover is holding this one back. When I saw the cover it didn't attract my attention and scream read me. It is plain and a bit boring. Thankfully, I read some glowing reviews and decided to take a chance. This is definitely a case of do not judge a book by its cover. This was fantastic read!
- I was a bit perplexed that there wasn't more detail on what happened to her father, he is now in a wheelchair and Imogen is struggling to come to terms with it. I was expecting more on this storyline and I thought that it was lacking. How did Imogen feel after right her father was confined to a wheelchair? Was she angry like she is now? How did her dad act toward the family? This was a big issue and I thought it could have been developed a bit better.
- Imogen's mother is a bit underdeveloped. There is very little information on her. Was her mother unhappy? Why did she give up art? Why was she so standoffish? How was she handling her husband's handicap? Why was she so oblivious to Imogen's struggles?
- It was revealed that the gunman in the diner who attacked the cashier knew her. I was curious as to why the gunman assaulted the cashier was it anger? Revenge? Drugs? I wanted to know what happened to the cashier and learn more about the gunman's motivation.
- I was excited to see there was an Epilogue at the end of the book, but then I was disappointed because it really didn't give me any answers. I wanted to know what happened to Imogen did she finally get back on course in school? What happened with Ricky? Did she repair her friendship with Sarah? The ending is open ended and there is definitely room for a sequel. I would be very curious to meet up with Imogen in five years to see how she moved beyond that night.
Bruised was a novel that packed a big punch. It is a read that will stick with you as it is filled with depth and emotion. Experience the devastating effects of PTSD and see how someone loses their way after what matters the most is stripped away. This was a riveting read and I was very impressed with Ms. Skilton's debut. I will definitely be reading her future work!
"My black belt represents everything I could've done and everything I didn't do, the only time it really mattered."
"All things I was before and all the things I thought were important didn't stop this from happening. So what does it matter?"
"I forget guys live in a world where some other guy might actually haul off and hit them at any moment. Girls don't really have to worry about their friends doing that. We have other ways of inflicting pain."
I have no fear, because I don't care what happens. There's something incredibly freeing in this realization. I want someone to attack."
"I'm surprised you're not out bobbing for boobs at some Halloween party," she says.
"If a girl punches someone, she's crazy. If a guy punches someone, he's dealing with his feelings. He's normal."