Saturday, June 16, 2012
Losing Elizabeth, by Tanya J. Peterson
At only 147 pages, Peterson's novel is a brisk treatment of the subject of abusive relationships between teens. The obvious comparison is with Sarah Dessen's cerebral novel Dreamland, but the two are quite different. While Dessen's novel explains how a mind in love can easily become a mind in denial, Losing Elizabeth is a more just-the-facts-ma'am treatment of the subject. This can lead it to come off as a bit pedantic, like an Afterschool Special, complete with stilted dialogue and bad guys whose evil intentions are crystal clear by page 33. Peterson's focus is on how small warning signs can grow subtly into full-blown abuse and on how abusers control their victims with calculated alterations of praise and criticism. It's spot-on. And if reading a story like this helps a young woman avoid becoming a victim, then it will have more than served its purpose. But as literature, it's a bit heavy handed. Given how big of a creep Brad appears to us, it is hard to see him through Elizabeth's eyes. Why does she keep forgiving him? We learn that she does, but we don't really understand why. To make this work, I wanted more of that inner dialogue.