A shy, overprotected girl is the focus of this character study of a victim of physical abuse.
Sixteen-year-old Bettina keeps to herself. Her Greek father dominates her life, rarely allowing her out of the house. She has no friends until she meets Brady, a good-looking boy who asks her out, politely seeking her father’s permission. With approval, Bettina begins a relationship that at first seems just what she needs, until Brady pushes her for sex and begins deliberately to hurt her, always claiming his violence is accidental. By chance, Bettina meets a young man she calls “Cowboy.” She immediately feels an easy connection to him and begins surreptitiously visiting his small car-repair shop. As events progress, Brady becomes even more abusive, while the undercurrent of a real romance develops between Bettina and Cowboy, despite their 10-year age difference. Once the two realize they are truly in love, disaster strikes. Connor keeps her story completely realistic, a welcome relief from standard-issue romances. Her fluid prose and convincing characterizations lift the story beyond the average. Only Cowboy seems idealized, as readers see him through Bettina’s eyes—also true to life. The book’s examination of abusive relationships is cleareyed and instructive.
Romance fans who happen upon this will find an absorbing portrait of abuse and recovery. (Fiction. 14-18)