From Publishers Weekly
Fehlbaum's debut novel, set in a small Texas town, is overloaded with thorny issues and hindered by a very special episode tone, but features a genuine and empathetic lead. After enduring six years of sexual abuse from her step-father, 14-year-old Ashley Asher finally gathers the courage to confide in her mother; predictably, mom sides with step-dad. Soon, Ashley is sent to live with her estranged birth father, David, and his new wife and son. Though he's now a kind man who's put his life-long anger issues behind him, Ashley still struggles to trust her father. His wife, Bev, a high school English teacher, brings Ashley into her extended family of summer school students; a controversial reading assignment, Ironman
by Chris Crutcher, provides the novel's other hot-button issues—racism, censorship, homophobia and religious extremism. An over-the-top scandal is followed by Bev's hokey, message-laden testimonial before the local school board. Throughout, Ashley's self-destructive tendencies, conflicted feelings and struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder read authentically; had Fehlbaum focused more on her recovery, rather than a raft of societal woes, this story would have been more powerful. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Nine-year-old Ashley Asher was pleased when her mother started a relationship with Charlie Baker. Charlie, Ashley thought, would be the father she never had. She was 9 then; now 15, she recounts the story of how her dream life soon turned to nightmare, commencing with the first time Charlie touched her inappropriately. For years she tolerated it—not only the sexual abuse but also the emotional manipulation her stepfather inflicted on her—until one day she confronted both Charlie and her mother. To Ashley’s horror, her mother sided with Charlie, leaving the teenager to find her own way, prompting her to reestablish a connection with her biological father. Though the subject matter is undeniably dark, Fehlbaum manages to keep the tone surprisingly light and hopeful. This hard-hitting but readable story about an infinitely troubling subject will resonate with all readers but especially with other survivors of abuse or with those who work with those survivors. --Mary Frances Wilkens