Published by Alloy Entertainment on October 30th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Buy on Amazon
When seventeen-year-old Ashley Watson walks through the halls of her high school bullies taunt and shove her. She can’t go a day without fighting with her mother. And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make her best friend, Matt, fall in love with her. But Ashley also has something no one else does: a literal glimpse into the future. When Ashley looks into the mirror, she can see her twenty-three-year-old self.
Her older self has been through it all already—she endured the bullying, survived the heartbreak, and heard every ugly word her classmates threw at her. But her older self is also keeping a dark secret: Something terrible is about to happen to Ashley. Something that will change her life forever. Something even her older self is powerless to stop.
This review is my attempt to finally get through some of my Netgalley backlogs in the hopes that I can pull up my dismal feedback ratio to a reasonable level. I was supposed to review this more than a YEAR ago.
Let that sink in guys… and let the walk/write of shame, begin.
Every Ugly Word
This is a difficult book for me to describe, let alone review. I was just so surprised by how much it moved me. I thought it would be like many of the other contemporary YA books out there. Compelling enough, but lacking some fundamental depth. However, Every Ugly Word didn’t pull any punches.
The novel starts off with Ashley, the main character, sitting in a psychiatrist’s office at an inpatient mental facility. She is desperate to leave that day, and the only way to do so, is by recounting the events that led to her commitment in the hopes that the doctor would believe that she has recovered enough to go home. Every chapter begins with conversation and analysis with the doctor, followed by an episodic account of her life. This served the dual purpose of building tension within and across chapters while giving us information and background on our protagonist.
There is an element of magical realism within the story. Ashley can see an older version of herself in the mirror and has frequent conversations with her. Older Ashley tries to be a source of support for current Ashley, in the hopes that the younger Ashley would choose a different path and have a healthier outcome.
I was very intrigued by the author’s choice to use that element in her story. I have been in outpatient therapy for several years for a variety of issues, one of them being trauma. In therapy, I have been frequently encouraged to ‘talk to the little girl inside me’. It sounds wonky, I know. But it’s done in an effort to help you be there for yourself through those past traumatic memories without having to rely on others, especially those who have been unsupportive in the past. I found the parallels between the aforementioned therapy technique and Ashley communicating with her older/younger self quite surprising. I wonder if the author had made that connection on purpose, or if it just happened to be a coincidence.
The romance in the book is also very realistic. Most contemporary YAs make the fatal mistake of introducing the concept that love conquers all, even trauma and mental illness. And nothing could be farther from the truth. In the beginning of the book, Ashley views Matt with love-blind glasses. But as the novel progresses, we see Ashley realizing that Matt is just as flawed as everyone else. She realizes that Matt can’t fix her, and that sometimes there is nothing to fix. There is nothing to do but to just get through those terrible moments with whatever willpower there is left, and have hope for a better future.
There is a wonderful quote towards the end of the book that sums up what it’s like to go through a horrific event and feel how different you are. How empty, yet hopeful.
“I was afraid because, even after everything I’d overcome, I still had holes. My dreams were coming true – but they weren’t filling the gaps. I still felt… less than. I’d decided to keep fighting, keep searching for answers. Because as long as I did that, there would always be a chance my holes would heal. I could have hope. My gaps only became inevitable when I stopped believing they could be filled.”
Every Ugly Word is free through Kindle Unlimited.