The Fall of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez | SLJ Review

Gr 9 Up –At eight years old, Emilia DeJesus survived a brutal attack on the playground by a teenager with special needs who lived at the group home next to her school.

redstarSANCHEZ, Jenny Torres. The Fall of Innocence. 448p. Philomel. Jun. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524737757.

Gr 9 Up –At eight years old, Emilia DeJesus survived a brutal attack on the playground by a teenager with special needs who lived at the group home next to her school. Emilia didn’t speak for an entire year after the event, insisting only on cawing, like the crows she believed saved her when she was attacked. Soon after, Emilia’s dad left her family because he couldn’t handle their pain. Eight years later, Emilia lives a mostly ordinary life, although she still has an affinity for birds. She has returned to school. She bears no physical injuries. She has a perfect boyfriend, whom she very much enjoys kissing. But the attack still casts an omnipresent shadow over her family’s life. Emilia’s mom is overprotective and constantly worried. Her older brother, Tomás, works long hours to help pay the family’s bills, all the while denying the part of himself who longs to wear dresses and makeup. Emilia herself struggles with depression and fear stemming from her trauma, but hides her feelings so as not to worry her loved ones. But an unexpected revelation about her attack swiftly brings her anxieties to the forefront and sets Emilia’s world spinning. Sanchez writes with stunning detail, showcasing the beauty that can be found in small moments, in family interactions, in nature, and in seemingly everyday objects. The narrative structure (a limited third-person point of view that alternates among Emilia and other secondary characters) enhances the storytelling and illustrates how a trauma like Emilia’s has widespread effects. Hints of the 1990s Long Island, NY, setting are also expertly woven throughout. VERDICT This beautiful story would be strong choice for those who enjoy a character-driven plot and don’t mind an unhappy ending.–Liz Overberg, ­Zionsville Community High School, IN

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2018 issue.

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