Sunday, February 05, 2023

Somewhere Between the Trees and Clouds, by Chuck Murphree

Dylan struggles with violent behavior and bouts of self-hatred.  The recent death of his mother buys him sympathy from others but the truth is that Dylan's problems go back to when he was twelve and his uncle molested him on a hiking trip.  He's never found the strength to tell anyone besides his best friend TJ about what happened until he meets Audrey.  Audrey has just transferred to their school to get away from bullying and harassment that started when she was raped at a party and tried to press charges.  The transfer didn't help and her "reputation" has followed her to Dylan's school.  

Drawn to each other through their recognition of how much they have in common, Dylan and Audrey's relationship that should have warning flags all over it.  Two fragile people grappling with the scars of sexual assault and self-loathing and somehow helping each other seems like a very bad idea, but in this story it all works out.  Each of them finds the strength to rise to each other's aid and also rebuild their own lives.  It's depicted in a way that seems so deceptively easy.  Yes, there are some relapsing and plenty of bad days, but they are basically perfect to each other and manage to never hurt each other.  That's not how these things play out in the real world.

Beyond my reservations about the wisdom of the blatantly codependent relationship that is at the core of the story, I was put off by the writing itself.  This is a verse novel with nothing particularly outstanding about the verse.  Instead, it is more of a trick to turn a really thin story into a nearly 400-page book.  In fairness, there are some great characterizations here and I think it's great to have a book that explores the impact of sexual violence on boys (a topic that is rare in YA literature), but it's a disappointing read.

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