Based on the author’s life, this debut novel tells a harrowing story of abuse and neglect.
Seventeen-year-old Lily King dreams of escaping her small Canadian town and horrible parents, Michael King and Victoria Grace. Michael once locked a barking puppy in a car trunk and blackened Lily’s eye when she questioned why. And Victoria—who drinks and pops pills all day—constantly berates Lily. Fighting their way through a bitter divorce, Lily’s parents neglect her when they’re not yelling at her. After Michael tricks Victoria into signing away her rights to their house, she and Lily move to a poor neighborhood. Michael refuses to give Victoria money for child support (he eventually flees to avoid paying), and Lily often goes hungry. Victoria attempts suicide and is institutionalized, so Lily must move back in with her begrudging father, who forces her to attend a religious school. Thankfully, there is one ray of hope—a kind counselor wants to help the teen win scholarships for nursing school. Raising the money will be a long shot, but getting into the prestigious program will be even harder. Lily is a smart, determined survivor, but has she taken on more than she can handle? Told from Lily’s first-person perspective—with her journal entries sprinkled throughout the narrative—Gregory’s tale features fluid, conversational prose. Highly precocious, Lily’s voice sometimes sounds too much like that of an adult, as when she examines the viewpoints of divorced children: “We aren’t privy to all the history that our parents have had together, and so we only see it as it unfolds in real time.” But an uneven voice doesn’t spoil the overall story, which is poignant and memorable. Lily’s language can also be poetic, as when she speaks of her deep sadness in spring: “The trees were starting to come alive, and I still felt shriveled up like the dead winter leaves.” One inspirational theme in Lily’s saga is the importance of helping others. Turning her abuse inward, Lily begins to think she is worthless. But her counselor—who was also abused—comes to her aid, teaching the student to believe in herself.
A touching tale with a mature, likable role model for teens who have suffered abuse.