A teen’s first steps toward recovery are here sensitively portrayed.
Given her history, Joy’s name “is sort of a lesson in irony.” After suffering years of neglect and physical abuse at the hands of her mother—including sexual abuse at the hands of one of her mother’s boyfriends—Joy breaks free and is placed under the care of her aunt and uncle. But it’s just the beginning of Joy’s journey: She’s scared of her uncle and other men, she suffers panic attacks and nightmares, and she struggles both to talk to anyone and to eat a full meal. Thanks to assignments from her therapist, Joy slowly makes progress, becoming friends with the charming Justin and wild Daisy, forming relationships with her family, and even learning kung fu. But realistically, there are setbacks, too—mostly minor, but she handles them until a much worse one occurs: Joy is told she must testify against her mother in person. Has Joy’s “journey of self-discovery” made her strong enough to face this? Perry deftly avoids the problem-novel label thanks to complex characters and a well-structured plot. Joy’s story is very affecting, and her voice is suitably self-effacing without being ostentatious; most readers will be engrossed.
For those not quite ready for Ellen Hopkins, this novel is a good choice. (Fiction. 14-16)