It started as an accident. Angela had been reaching into Julie's diaper bag for more snacks for her baby sister when her hand came into contact with a sharp point on the underside of the park bench. Curiosity caused the second wound, and this time a bead of ruby red blood on the tip of her middle finger was her reward. But what about the third cut, the fourth, and so on? What drove Angela to continue to seek out the hidden danger, to scrape her wrist back and forth along the jagged metal, to bleed intentionally?
In a haunting novella about how one man's darkness can lead his family down the path to destruction, Foster tells the story of a troubled teenage girl who turns to drugs and, eventually, cutting to mentally escape the onslaught of hatred her father generates. Bigoted and domineering, Angela's dad causes his wife and children to walk on eggshells when he's home. But the times he is absent create a different stress in his oldest daughter, because she has discovered the thinly veiled secret that there are other women in his life apart from her mother, as well as other children. Hearing the pitying comments of neighbors and others behind her back about her family situation, Angela's personal darkness deepens. But, thankfully, she has Jessica, a secret friend from childhood, who refuses to let Angela self-destruct.
Although her book is predominantly about surviving teenage depression, Foster also tackles some key societal issues in her narrative. For example, Angela's father's racism is repugnant, but it didn't originate with him; his father had been the same way. Then, during an altercation at the park, Angela is shocked to hear her little brother, Sammy, fire off a racial slur she had heard her father use at Jessica's younger brother. This highlights the sad fact that racist parents often pass on their hatred to their offspring. To her credit, Angela seems immune to it, and quickly steps in to publicly admonish her brother for his behavior.
Related to this, the author drives home an excellent point about true friendship being colorblind. For Angela, Jessica is simply a girl she wants to be friends with, and when her father rages that no child of his will associate with "their kind," she agrees to still be Jessica's friend, even though they will have to keep that friendship hidden. While the two only interact occasionally in the following years, that early childhood promise comes into play when Jessica discovers Angela's problems with drugs and other actions related to depression. Jessica's fierce and unwavering commitment in her teenage years to the white girl who first befriended her in elementary school is inspiring and is one of the best parts of the book. A third issue the author touches on is how a battered woman will often stay with her abuser, even when this can be detrimental both to her and to her family.
Foster's background of working with troubled teens, as well as her own family history and personal battles with depression, have given her a wealth of experience to draw on in constructing her novella. The result is a well-written and moving tale that ultimately ends in hope.
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