Title: Every Last Promise
Author: Kristin Halbrook
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
This book was given to me by the publisher, Balzer and Bray, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!
Trigger warning: rape/sexual assault
Again, as I've said before, 2015 seems like the golden year for contemporary fiction. I love the way authors this year have taken tough issues and crafted stories from them, using fiction to tell readers about hard truths--and the reward of doing what's right. Rape is something that happens all the time. And excuses are made. "Boys will be boys." "Well, she was asking for it. Look at how short her skirt was!" "She shouldn't have flirted with him." Halbrook's debut novel isn't just a story, or a warning, or a moral.
She's speaking out for the victims who are too frightened or traumatized to speak out, and for the people who have witnessed such an assault who fear retribution.
Kayla has returned to her home after an excruciating time in Kansas City. In the aftermath of a scarring event, the home she loves so much--with every fiber of her being--doesn't love her back anymore. Harassed or ignored entirely by peers, bullied and frightened, fragile, broken Kayla wrestles with guilt large enough to crush the soul, torn between doing the right thing and belonging in the home she cares so much for.
This book was by all turns terrifying, and terribly sad. Who do you go to when you have no one else? Where do you go, when you lose your place in the world? Despite Kayla's hesitation, I really felt for her. She was so scared, and so scarred. Was it a party simply gone out of control? Or did she actually witness a heinous, horrible crime? What was interesting for me about Kayla, too, was that for most of the book, even she isn't altogether certain what happened.
It really hurt me, as well, to watch Kayla lose her friends, her one support system in the dog-eat-dog world of high school. And in high school, nothing is more important to you than your friendships. But I also remember how quickly people can turn on you--and it brought back some intense memories.
I loved that every single character in this book is important: Selena, Kayla's former best friend, Bean, another friend who has mysteriously cut ties with them, Caleb, Kayla's older brother, who is wrestling with his own burden of guilt. Jay, the golden boy who can do no wrong, and the whole town that worships him and his family.
The bottom line: A beautiful, darkly terrifying book revealing the ugly side of small town living, Every Last Promise should be a must-read for all. A greatly important piece of fiction--one of my favorite contemporary books of the entire year! Next on deck: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma!