Sunday, 29 May 2016

'Crush', by Eve Ainsworth

Title: Crush
Author(s): Eve Ainsworth
Release Date: 3rd March 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Source: Publisher

Synopsis:
Love hurts ... but should it hurt this much? Reeling from her mum's sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He's handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of. He's also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends, her music. He wants her to be his and his alone. He wants her to be perfect. Anna's world is closing in. But threatening everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control... Eve Ainsworth's gripping second novel is a pitch-perfect exploration of love at its most powerful, addictive and destructive.

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'Crush' tells the story of Anna, a fourteen year old girl who lives with her younger brother and father as they all deal with her mother's departure from the family. Feeling alone and uncared for, the moment Will comes into her life she feels like she has everything she could possibly need. With him, she finally has someone that understands her, feels the same way she does, likes her for the way she is.

Unfortunately, she is all he ever wants too.

I could tell from the moment I read the blurb of this book that it would be something that could turn into an amazing story, but as always when it comes to tender subjects such as this I was worried it would be portrayed in a way that was problematic or not realistic.

Eve Ainsworth's background in working with troubled teenagers definitely played a role into the writing of Anna's story, since I believe it was one of the most accurate, touching and thought provoking portrayals of abusive and toxic relationships I have ever read!

Will seems to be nothing but the perfect boy in Anna's perspective from the beginning. Seen as the 'gallant' of the school, she thinks of herself as incredibly lucky to have caught his eye. From that first time he follows her after counseling to return her lost purse, she cannot believe he could ever have any feelings for her. Here begins an intense relationship between them, and a small escalation of warning signs scattered throughout their interactions paralleling a steady descent into abusive behavior.

Eve made an incredibly smart decision of presenting both their perspectives throughout the story, and through an unexpected method. While the main plot line is seen from the point of view of Anna, at the end of each chapter there is a letter written by Will. I will not get into the context or reasoning behind those letters as I believe this is the sort of book you should go into as blind as possible, but it was immensely refreshing and interesting seeing this story play out from both sides.

While nothing excuses abusive and violent behavior, I could see myself understanding what made Will be the way he is, and it is not an easy task making me empathize with an abuser. He is also a victim that has a very similar background to Anna, and seeing how two people that have been through similar problems turn out to become such different people is always a favorite thing of mine to see done well in books. Again, it does not excuse the way he behaves towards Anna, but knowing where he comes from does make one wonder about what could be avoided if people that come from this sort of background receive the support they need. Very rarely does violent behavior come out of nowhere, and getting to see what originated Will's was definitely a necessity to fully understand the story.

Anna was, of course, the one I immediately related to and created a strong bond with. Regardless of what path of life one has followed, at one point or another everyone has felt alone, insecure and unloved. Even with a strong group of friends around her she can't help but have those feelings, and that insecurity opens up a path for her to enable everything that Will asks of her. The warning signs of something incredibly wrong start sounding very early on, and they almost flash out the page. Having been in her shoes, even if not in such an extreme situation, I can understand how all those red flags did not register with her as they did with everyone around her. All in all, this portrayal is incredibly accurate and made me quite emotional with how bluntly true it is. Eve's writing is truly fantastic and I could not put the book down from beginning to end!

The layers inserted into this portrayal are yet another plus. Anna's relationship with her father is also very strained, and for most of the book you will find yourself seeing him as yet another toxic presence in her life. She repeatedly excuses both his and Will's behavior throughout the book, and seeing the inner workings of a victim's mind and how it slowly shifts under the influence of a stronger, overpowering presence was mind boggling. For people that have been in her place it will be incredibly relatable; for the ones that are lucky enough to not have experienced such a thing it almost serves as a guide of what to avoid. Even though this is a Young Adult book I strongly believe it should be a must read for all ages!

If I had to point any less good points about it, I would have to say the voice of some characters comes through unrealistic at some points, especially the one of Anna's younger brother, Eddie. The cast of this book is relatively young, as Anna is fourteen and Will is sixteen. Eddie is only ten, and sometimes when he spoke I forgot he was that young. If you compare some of his speech with the one of this father you probably would not be able to tell them apart, as all the characters seem unusually 'grown up'. It does not happen often enough, however, for me to take it as a negative in my reading experience.

The resolution, while satisfying, almost demands more. I wanted to know more about how these characters dealt with the position they were left in, and some are not explored as much as I would have liked to.

'Crush' is an engrossing, emotional portrayal of love in its most destructive, raw form. 'Love is blind', as they say, and here you will definitely see just how much one person can unwittingly ignore for the person they love. I would (and will) definitely recommend this book to people from any and every background, because this is a story that deserves to be read and should be on every single bookshelf!
 
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