A thoughtful and sensitive handling of a difficult topic.
Six months before starting grade 10, Maddy Malone (a white Canadian 14-year-old) is attacked by a group of boys and raped. Following the ordeal, Maddy has become a shell of herself, trying to avoid her attackers, who thus far have not said anything. Everything changes when Maddy shares an English class with two of her attackers. The uneasy silence they’ve all worked to maintain begins to crumble when the class collectively begins to write The Pain Eater, a fantasy novel about Farang, a 15-year-old girl who at birth was chosen to bear the pain of her fellow villagers. As the students manipulate the story in turn to fit their own ideas and agendas, Maddy begins to see parallels between herself and Farang—and it’s not long before her classmates also begin to catch on. When Maddy’s secret begins to unravel and her attackers threaten her to keep quiet, she must decide whether to fight or stand down. The novel never hits readers over the head with its message, but it is not an easy read. At times heartbreaking, it honestly addresses Maddy’s full range of emotions associated with the rape, from pain to crippling fear and sometimes anger. Through the device of the collectively written story and the teen characters’ responses to it, Goobie sensitively and artfully tackles the problematic way rape is perceived in society.
Powerfully written, this is not just a story about trauma, but also one of healing. (Fiction. 13-18)