Bitter End by Jennifer Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.
I have been looking forward to Jennifer Brown's next novel since I read Hate List. Brown's best writing quality is her uncanny ability to get into the head of a character in an unthinkable situation. Hate List proved this.
This time, Brown took on the character of a girl who is physically abused by her boyfriend. Knee-jerk reaction is that a person who continues to return to an abusive man must be weak or have a lot of issues with self-esteem which would be easy to judge if one didn't understand the abuse cycle which includes gaining trust, alienation of others, abuse, sorrow, honeymoon and so on. Brown does an exceptional job with Alex's character as she is attracted to Cole, sports superstar and beautiful specimen who tells her how beautiful and perfect she is no matter what she does. But, like a good abuser, Cole has jealousies. He can't stand to see Alex with anybody else but himself. Alex feels caught yet strangely adored and starts to make sacrifices. She's in love with Cole. She loves Cole. Cole loves her. The changes in her social scene are subtle and slow but definite.
The abuse doesn't start as definite, though. It's a grip that's a little too tight that leaves welts, a small act of cruelty accompanied with complete apathy then builds from there. When someone sacrifices so much for a relationship, admitting the abuse would be a bitter pill to take. Brown also includes the familial connection.
Very well written and researched. Excellent book for teenage girls.