Friday, January 25, 2013

Young Adult Fiction: Send by Patty Blount

I honestly can't remember how I came across Patty Blount's Send. I'm sure I could blame it on Goodreads or Bookpeople or one of my other usual suspects. I'm always looking for new young adult fiction, and Send did not disappoint.

The Situation: Dan's real name is not Daniel. But he and his parents agreed that they would not even say his real name inside of their own home. After moving to Long Island to complete his senior year of high school, Dan's primary objective is to be invisible - keep his head down, do his school work, don't get to close to anyone, and most important of all, just stay out of trouble. Dan did something when he was 13 that caused a fellow student to end his life. After his stint in juvie, Dan continued to pay the price by a vengeful father turned stalker who continues to follow his family and cause them to move from city to city, and also by an unrelenting and unmitigated sense of guilt that Dan can't seem to help but indulge. But the changed names seem to be working. This new city and new school doesn't seem to notice Dan and his family, and he may be able to finally make it through high school.

The Problem: On the first day of school, before school has even started, Dan has made an enemy and gained a reputation. People have already taken notice of him and started talking. Because of Dan's past and experiences in the juvenile center, Dan just can't bear to see someone be a target for bullying and not help out. And the kid he helps out is a constant target, so Dan is on constant watch. By the end of the first semester he has a couple of good friends, an enemy, the kid he protects, and a sort of girlfriend who keeps giving him mixed signals. Soon, it seems that he has been protecting the wrong person the whole time, and there are crucial parts to a much bigger story that he has been missing, all while making himself more and more visible. Oh yeah, and he talks to the way that could get him committed.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel that deals with the extremely real issue of bullying and what it can lead to. In the past, Dan was the bully, and now, he plays the role of protector and knows the signs and what to look for. Blount attacks the issue head on and does not shy away at all from the truly harsh aspects of this problem in today's schools. Blount explores how the bullying affects not only the victim and the bully, but also the families of both parties, and how the wounds can and do take years to heal, for everyone. The terrible tragedy that happened at Columbine is mentioned briefly, but Blount mostly focuses on the use of social media sites as a tool for bullies, as well as email, and the good ole standby, physical violence. Blount also explores the reasoning and actions of those who stand by and do nothing. Something that is brought up in the book that I was glad she touched on was how the parents of both the aggressor and the victim are almost completely clueless about what is going on in their child's life. They are genuinely shocked to learn that their child was in any sort of trouble, and this is a significant problem since too much of the time that realization comes when it is already too late. The author unpacks the full complexity of the issue fully and doesn't hold much back.

My Verdict: I am tempted to say that every young adult out there should read this book, but I always cringe when people say that about any group of people concerning whatever book, TV show, movie, etc...and especially when the group they mention is one in which I happen to belong. Also, it makes it feel like more of an assignment and I don't want this novel to have that stigma. It is a fantastic book that is about more than just the effects of bullying and its consequences. It goes deeper than that. And I think having the narrative voice come from a reformed bully who has been from hell and back (and still willingly resides there sometimes) is incredibly effective and gives it a different feel than if it came from a victim or bystander or third person omniscient narrator. This book does what I feel like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why failed to do. It is convincing and the characters feel real, as does their pain.

Favorite Moment: When Dan is finally able to be honest about his guilt and honest about what really happened when he was 13. It is when I finally felt some hope that he was going to be okay despite his present circumstances.

Favorite Character: Dan's grandfather, Pop, is that no-nonsense voice of reason that Dan needs in his life. Everyone else kind of walks on egg shells around him or constantly feeds him half-truths instead of just saying what needs to be said. Pop says what he wants, whether Dan wants to hear it or not.

Recommended Reading: I really don't want to recommend Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, because I honestly don't think it is all that great. But right now it is the only book coming to mind because it deals with a sequence of events that lead to the suicide of a teenager. I just don't think Asher treats the subject with half the honesty that Blount does.

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