A girl returns to high school with permanent disfigurements from a bear attack.
With only four months left in 17-year-old Abby Hughes’ senior year, she returns anyway—despite being terrified. After months of hospital recovery and many surgeries, Abby can walk and speak, but her face and body are severely scarred, and she has physical pain and dysfunction. This is the story of a regular teenager, once a pretty girl—who was also a mean girl—accepting a new reality. It’s also a story of bullying; attempted sexual assault telegraphed miles in advance; parental alcoholism cured by romance; and Abby’s former boyfriend, who was attacked alongside her but has gone radio-silent. The Rocky Mountains loom large in this quiet, mostly white southwestern Alberta community. Abby processes her trauma through an intense focus on grizzlies, including videos of violent bear attacks. Abby’s New Age–y grandmother calls grizzlies her talisman, referring to unspecified ancient world traditions. Debut author Baugh gives her protagonist no characterization or individuality beyond the core plot point. Related in dull prose, the messages are overt and trite, placing responsibility for bullying onto the disfigured person herself (“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.”) The book follows a white default.
Despite a pressing need for protagonists who have disfigurements that aren’t symbolic, skip this predictable and flavorless attempt. (Fiction. 14-17)