Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: Etched On Me by Jenn Crowell

Have you ever wanted something so much, it's not a desire so much as a beacon? ~ Opening of Etched On Me


Etched On Me by Jenn Crowell
Washington Square Press, 2014
Fiction; 336 pgs

This probably is not a book I would have picked to read on my own. It came in the mail last month as the second Going Postal Mail Group selection for the year. Books dealing with incest and social service agencies fall in my "too close to work" category. And, admittedly, it was difficult at times to read this book without my work hat on.

At sixteen, Lesley Holloway is trying to fit in and make good grades like any other girl at Hawthorn Hill, an all-girl prep school in London. She hadn't been sure she would be able to attend after making the decision to runaway from an abusive home and seek help from the local child welfare agency. Feeling alone and abandoned by a mother that should have protected her, Lesley is surviving as best she can. In an effort to cope, she turns to cutting, a form of self-harm, that soon becomes an obsession. One day at school, she goes too far and it lands her in the hospital. From then on, Lesley is in and out of hospitals, trying to heal from past psychological wounds as well as the physical ones. It is not an easy road for her, but she proves to be quite resilient.

The novel opens with Lesley in the hospital giving birth to her own child. She had made it to the university as a stellar student, and after a one night stand became pregnant. Despite all the strides she has made to get herself together, her past comes back to haunt her. Suddenly her ability to parent is called into question. Talk about gut-wrenching.

Lesley is an amazingly strong young woman. finding the courage to runaway from home and get help. She is an example that someone in the worst of circumstances can make it out on top with perseverance and the will.

Lesley is very lucky to have a good support system to help her through even the worst of times. Her social worker and a high school teacher would do anything for Lesley. They see what a courageous and strong young woman she is. They know what she is capable of if she sets her mind to it. They never give up on her and continue advocating for her, even when Lesley considers giving up on herself. I wish every child or youth in Lesley's situation were so lucky. Many do not have that support or do not know where to look to get help. Or perhaps they are too afraid. Some do not think they are worth it.

Cutting has become more widespread in recent years, unfortunately and occurs for many reasons. It is a behavior that is often misunderstood and is hard to stop. It is a coping mechanism, however harmful it may be. I liked the way the author addressed cutting in the novel. She handles the subject matter in a very sensitive manner, but also in a very real and raw way.

It was interesting to see the differences in how the child welfare system works in England as compared to the United States. Of course, there are so many variations even here in the U.S. that it is can even be different from one county to another in the same state. I also found it interesting to read about the various treatment models Lesley was exposed to throughout her hospitalizations. The treatment and care for mental disorders is ever evolving.

Etched On Me sounds like a terribly depressing novel, and it certainly is a sad one in many respects. Author Jenn Crowell, however, has infused it with hope, and it really is an inspirational novel. I did cry. And one character in particular made me want to throw the book at him (just the thought of him now gets my blood boiling). But by the end I was smiling.


You can learn more about Jenn Crowell and her books on the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.


© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

22 comments:

  1. This sounds like a good (and/but very emotionally intense) read! I hope my library gets it soon!

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    1. Eustacia - It was, and not one that I will forget any time soon, I am sure. I hope your library does get it in and that you like it if you read it!

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  2. I do like to read about issues like this even when they are tough to read about. This sounds like a good book.

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    1. Kathy - I think books like this are worthwhile to read, especially in today when issues like this are still so relevant.

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  3. I'm not sure I'm up for a book on this subject matter right now...it sounds just a little too intense and heartbreaking, though I'm glad it ends more hopefully.

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    1. Lark - It isn't an entirely easy read, and the right mood might be necessary to take this one in. I know it won't be to everyone's taste or it may be too much of a trigger for some readers.

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  4. This sounds like a really powerful read. I totally wouldn't have given this one a second look before reading this review. Thanks for putting it on my radar!

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    1. Carole - It's not one I would have probably picked up on my own, but I'm glad I got the chance to read it! I hope you like it if you do decide to read it.

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  5. I wouldn't have wanted to read this book just based off the blurb but I do like the hope the author manages to infuse in the book. That sounds like it really keeps it from becoming to grim and too sad. Thanks for sharing! I'll have to look for this one.

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    1. Katherine - As serious and sad as the subject matter was, I think the author did a great job of making it a compelling and more inspirational story. If you do decide to give this one a try, I hope you will like it.

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  6. I'm finally catching up on my favourite blogs, sorry I've been so quiet. This book sounds like a good read for winter (the season I'm currently in). Nice review

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    1. Melinda - Thank you! If you prefer heavier reads in the winter, then this would definitely fall into that category. :-) It's good to see you again!

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  7. I do read "tough" books sometimes, if in the mood. I've read books with incest, cutting, abuse, neglect, and teen pregnancy... but all in one story does sound depressing. Thanks for a good review that explains how a possibly melancholy story can be enjoyed, too.

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    1. Rita - I probably gave more away about this one than I should, but I didn't want anyone to walk away thinking this book was all sadness and grimness. It really is an inspirational story.

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  8. Definitely sounds like a thought-provoking read. I would like to read this one so thank you for reviewing this!

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    1. Iliana - It really is. I can see this one being a good one for a book group. I hope you like it if you do read it.

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  9. It sounds like a pretty good book to have all that content and still have you smiling by the end. I like books that take you on a journey (with a dynamic protagonist) and this sounds like one of those.
    ~Litha Nelle

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    1. Litha Nelle - I thought so. Lesley's resilience and strength shine throughout this book.

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  10. I like reading sad stories once in a while; I suppose they make me think about life in general and how we should be appreciative. I'm glad this book made you smile in the end, Wendy. Always good to hear a good/happy ending after all the sad events in a story. :)

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    1. Melody - Yes, I like them from time to time too. This one was a good one.

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