For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.
Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.
I’m so pleasantly surprised! Although JLA is one of my auto-buy author, I know her plots and her characters are often similar and predictable. I love her books anyway, though. It might be that I haven’t read contemporary YA in a while, but I truly enjoyed this one. There are a lot of JLA signatures, as always, but there’s also a different feeling to it all.
Words were not the enemy on the monster under my bed, but they held such power over me. They were like the ghost of a loved one, forever haunting me.
Mallory has been through hell, but somehow she’s survived. She grew up in a foster home, where monsters were real. The only one who helped her and protected her was Rider, another foster kid, as old as she was, who took it upon himself to protect her even if that often ended with him being beaten up. What Mallory was taught to avoid angering her foster dad, was to be as quiet as she could, no matter what she heard. So after years, and after being adopted from a truly loving family, she’s still struggling with words. She barely speaks at all. But she’s trying, she wants to leave the safety of homeschooling for real school. That’s where she sees the one person from her past she feared she’d never see again, Rider.
I looked over my shoulder at him, meaning what I was saying. As much as I…as I loved that he retained that fierce protective streak, I couldn’t rely on him always being there to have my back. For the last four years, he hadn’t been there, and we couldn’t go back.
Rider immediately takes back his role as Mallory’s protector, but that’s not what she needs. She needs to learn to stand up for herself, to fight for herself. But old habits are hard to die. And as much as Rider doesn’t seem affected in a visible way by their past, as Mallory is, his issues run much deeper; and only time and acceptance will heal him. I loved how the journey to healing developed for both Mallory and Rider, it felt so real, and it emphasized how much your healing depends on you; someone’s help might be fundamental but in the end, until you’re not ready to heal, you won’t heal.
It was my turn to take care of him and to be the strong one. The one who held it together so he could fall apart a little.
So, overall it was a surprisingly inspiring read. JLA did a great job at developing the characters, and at showing many shades of the foster care system. It was really emotional and intense.