When You Know What I Know

Little, Brown. Mar. 2020. 224p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316535441.
Gr 3-7–When you know what Tori knows, you can’t look at yourself in the mirror. You can’t tell anyone what happened, because you feel embarrassed and ashamed. When Tori finally tells her mother what her uncle did to her in the basement, her mother initially does not believe her. Tori feels simultaneously betrayed and guilty, because Uncle Andy was her babysitter and her mother can’t afford another. Tori’s mother ultimately believes her, but the sexual abuse permeates every part of the girl’s life, impacting her friendships, school, and everything she previously enjoyed. Family dynamics become strained, with her grandmother defending her uncle and her newly remarried father blaming her mother for putting Tori in a dangerous situation. Set just after the abuse, the novel does not specifically describe the experience but focuses instead on the impact and the way others respond. Solter’s writing is at its strongest when Tori navigates conflicting emotions. When other survivors of Uncle Andy’s abuse come forward, Tori feels validated, then remorseful for feeling glad. The first-person perspective and novel in verse style viscerally convey Tori’s raw feelings. The poetry is initially spare, mirroring Tori’s emotional state, but it evolves into more expansive verse as Tori processes and begins to heal with the help of a therapist.
VERDICT A difficult but important read, giving a voice to sexual abuse survivors and helping others see the complexity of emotions and the hard work that goes into the healing process.

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