Jennifer Brown is making a name for herself with striking, poignant novels about hard-to-face topics. Her latest novel, following her fantastic debut Hate List, is Bitter End, which explores with wide-open eyes and complete candor, the emotional roller coaster of a young woman in love with an abusive boyfriend.
High school senior Alex is haunted by the tragic accident that killed her mother when she was a young girl; the fact that her father will never talk about the circumstances that lead her mom out onto the road to Colorado so many years ago, and the isolation she feels in her family at being the only one who seems to miss their mother, have compounded over the years to leave Alex feeling unnoticed, unloved and disconnected. When she falls for the handsome, charming new guy at school, Cole, she can hardly believe she’s found her soul mate – someone who completely understands her and loves her for who she is.
Their relationship starts out great: Cole adores her and wants to spend all his free time with her; he’s loving and romantic and makes Alex feel alive in a way she never has before. He’s somewhat jealous, though, of her two best friends, Bethany and Zack, but Alex assumes it must be hard for any guy to accept that a girl would have a guy as a platonic best friend. But as the months pass, Alex can’t ignore Cole’s mood swings, his put downs, the nasty way he treats her friends, and the increasing physical violence towards her. As his outbursts escalate and the abuse gets more physical and painful, Alex struggles to hide the bruises from others at school, to convince herself that she is responsible for his behavior, and to justify his actions when weighed against the possibility of losing the one person she believes has really ever truly loved her.
In Bitter End, Brown has written a novel that is a startling, powerful, and poignant account of the slippery slope a victim of abuse slides down as her life is slowly eclipsed by her beloved abuser. She treats Alex with a sensitive, honest understanding and in so doing creates a beautifully drawn character who suffers pain, guilt, and incredible stress as her life spins out of control. In her Author’s Note, Brown discusses the “I’d never put up with that” mentality that most women espouse when the suggestion of relationship abuse surfaces, but on every tense page of Bitter End, she deftly illustrates that when the complexity of love is factored in to the cycle of abuse, it’s never easy to say “I’d never…”
- Posted by Cori