Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Book Review Club - Waiting to Forget

Waiting to Forget
Sheila Kelly Welch
middle grade

Because of the age of the protagonist, I've tagged this as middle grade, as did the publisher, namelos; however, it seems wise and fair to point out that this is the story of a current day child-survivor of abuse and neglect. This isn't a light read. It's tough. It's a great book for talking through and exploring emotions, but I wouldn't send a child off to read this alone.

Basic plot: T.J.'s little sister, Angela, fell from the second story balcony into the entryway of their new adopted parent's home. While T.J. waits at the hospital to find out if his sister will be all right, he tells their story in flashback. It's a heartrending account of a mother who neglects her children, has a string of boyfriends, some nice and some less than nice, that ultimately lead her to abandoning her kids to follow her man, who has abused the children. The children then cycle through various foster homes until they're adopted. The transition to a new home is difficult, wrought with feelings of guilt and distrust and the fear of loving anyone again.

The story alternates between present tense for the here and now and past for the story leading up to the hospital. For a young reader, changing tense can be confusing. Yet another aspect of the story that makes it well-suited for group reading and discussion.

As I was reading this book, I asked myself many times "what's the point" of a story of this nature. I'll readily admit, I'm sometimes a bit slow in getting it when it comes to gritty fiction about scarring abuse for a young audience. I faced a similar paradox with the aspect of double dead parents in my own middle grade, Dragon Wishes. For me, the theme felt too heavy as a stand alone. Thus I added a second story to the first, a fantasy, that broke up the heaviness of the main, present day story, while intertwining with it to push plot forward. That was my personal choice because the topic, death of both parents, just felt too heavy all by itself for a young audience. In Waiting to Forget, there is no break from reality. The distant past is painful, the recent past is jumbled and painful, and the present is scary painful. Angela may die.

Is this a story worth telling? Absolutely. However, it's probably one that's best read and shared together for the story to have its true effect, i.e. helping children either to cope with abuse in their lives or to understand abuse and its effects on their peers.

For other great reads, hop on over to Barrie Summy's site. They're in full bloom!