Willow seems like your average teenage girl – she has a few close friends, she goes to football games, and she likes spending time with her boyfriend, Jaden. Jaden is every girl’s dream boyfriend – he’s good looking, the captain of the football team, and incredibly popular. Jaden is also controlling, abusive, and downright mean to Willow, and doesn’t care who knows about it. But Willow feels like she has to stay with Jaden, because Jaden knows a secret about her family that could tear them apart and destroy her. So Willow deals with Jaden telling her who she can and cannot hang out with, whether or not she is allowed to leave her house, and what they will do when they spend time together. He even orders her food for her.
When Willow goes home at the end of the day, she can’t even find relief there – Ralph, Willow’s step-father, is even more abuse than Jaden. Ralph isn’t afraid to physically abuse Willow, and she is forced to cover her bruises and injuries with long sleeves and make-up, so that no one finds out. Willow’s mother doesn’t do anything to stop the abuse, either – for various reasons, including fear of abuse for herself, and fearing that her secret will get out if she says anything, because Ralph knows what it is. Even worse, Ralph absolutely adores Jaden, and practically insists that Willow stays with him. When Willow tries to break up with Jaden, Ralph makes it clear that he expects her to stay with him.
While home and school are both hard for Willow, she’s good in school and tries to spend as much time with her friends as she can. At the beginning of her senior year, a new student shows up – Brody. Brody has quite the reputation for dating girls, using them, and then breaking up with them, so Willow doesn’t really want to waste her time befriending him. However, he is in a few of her classes and makes sure to sit next to her and talk to her as often as possible. While their relationship starts off as dislike for one another, complete with insulting each other daily, they slowly become friends, and Willow finds herself falling in love with him. Jaden doesn’t allow to spend time with him, and he becomes even more controlling when he finds out that the two of them are friends (he walks her to every class and insists she stay put at her house unless she is with him). Willow and Brody start sneaking around in the middle of the night just to see each other, and eventually Willow tries to break up with Jaden for Brody – only it doesn’t go quite as smoothly as she would have hoped.
This book deals with some really dark topics. There is a lot of abuse and control issues present here, so if those are topics that might be problematic for you to read about, this book probably isn’t for you. The violence in this book is kind of graphic in my opinion, and even I thought it was kind of hard to read. However, once I started reading this book, I found myself not wanting to put it down. It told a difficult story similar to those that a lot of women and girls have to deal with, and that fact is incredibly frightening. I can’t remember the last time I despised a character in a book the way I did with Jaden and Ralph.
It was heartbreaking to watch the story unfold and how horrible Willow’s step-father treated her, not to mention the fact that her mother just sat by and let it go on. The even more heartbreaking part of this is to know that this kind of abuse goes on all over the world, every day. This book is a real eye-opener, and if was written with those intentions, it definitely got its point across.
Also, the parts with Willow and Brody are cute in some places, and just plain romantic in others (like swoon-worthy kind of romantic). Just wanted to throw that out there.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.