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Bitter End Hardcover – May 10, 2011
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* "Brown demonstrates an expert ability to handle difficult subject matter....entirely authentic. The book's power--and its value--comes from the honest portrayal of characters who simply can't figure out how to bring an ugly, evident truth to light."―Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "Brown's writing flows smoothly and naturally...will linger on readers' minds long after the story is completed."
―VOYA, starred review
"Brown tackles another taboo but much-discussed topic with authority and authenticity....readers will be enthralled."―Kirkus
"Brown creates multifaceted characters as well as realistic, insightful descriptions of Alex's emotions....A tough but important addition to the YA romance shelves."―Booklist
About the Author
Jennifer Brown writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area with her family. She is the author of Hate List, Torn Away, Thousand Words, Perfect Escape, and Bitter End.
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The relationship between main character Alex and her abusive boyfriend Cole was well-done. Alex is vulnerable and craving love after the death of her mother and the splintering of her family. Cole seems charming and also a product of a broken home, meaning that they seem to understand each other. Cole loves her poetry, she loves his music, and everything seems great. Except of course for my feelings of dread as I knew the book was about an abusive relationship.
Besides the inherent brutality of a physically abusive relationship, which was very hard to read (I may have done some skimming), these kinds of books are hard for me to read because I want to believe that people can change, that mistakes are made but also learned from. But Cole has been an abuser in at least three relationships and seems unlikely to change, which is just so sad to see in a human being. As you may be able to see, I wanted to like Cole because he did have the ability to be very charming even as his true colors were revealed. And he did have make some good points.
Because I agreed with Cole about Alex's friends-they suck. They are immature and annoying. It seemed like they were friends because they had all lived next to each other and had known each other for ages; are proximity and history really good reasons to be friends? Bethany was shockingly nondescript for someone who is supposed to be a best friend. I could not form a picture of her and I would forget about her whenever she wasn't around.
Meanwhile Zach was so annoying, way too flirty, and from what the book showed, obviously in love with Alex. Why was he always trying to tickle and touch her? Obviously Cole's expression of his uncomfortableness with Zach was taken too far but I would have been uncomfortable with such a flirty relationship between my boyfriend and his female friend. Additionally Zach finds out early about some of Cole's bad traits but instead of trying to have a sober conversation with Alex, he attempts to threaten Cole and just tells Alex that Cole's a jerk. Nothing to support that accusation and it did make Zach look like the bad guy. I think there's a problem when the reader hates the friends who are supposed to help the abusee more than the actual abuser.
This book just did not work for me; I would recommend Stay by Deb Caletti and especially Dreamland by Sarah Dessen for a superior reading experience (My sister, also agrees with me on these recommendations-so that's two of us urging you to read these other books.)
I started reading Bitter End by Jennifer Brown with high hopes since Hate List was one of the most haunting books I've read in a while. This book stars Alex, who has two very close best friends-- Zach and Bethany who she's known since diapers. A handsome guy, Cole, transfers to their school, and needs tutoring help, and Alex falls in love for the first time. Alex feels like her life is perfect until it's clear that Zach hates Cole for some reason, and then Cole pretty quickly starts revealing a darker side. Will Alex be able to get out of this situation and save herself?
I had my doubts going into this book, because abusive relationships are tough to portray correctly, and one of my best friends has gone through this experience, with me right there with her. I was disappointed in the beginning of the book where we have very cardboard cutout standard teen experiences, with the very cheesy beginning of a relationship that doesn't seem to have any depth even before the abuse starts. Also, I have to agree with other reviewers that the two friends Zach and Bethany also don't seem very well developed. As for Cole, he has no depth whatsoever. In Hate List, even though the guy was a serial killer, I had a sort of sympathy for him, because I knew he was more than just what lead up to the moment. It didn't make him right or a good person, but I kind of got it. And I got why the MC was with him initially even though there were a lot of warning signs.
As for the abusive relationship, I think things usually are a bit more insidious. The way it's portrayed, a lot of people had many doubts as to why Alex would stay. I remember with my friend, the way it all started was just these little digs, little condescending remarks, put downs. It wasn't so obvious as just calling her "slut" all of a sudden. So when the abuse started for real, my friend was already doubtful that these things would happen again because of all that past. This is the hard thing about starting the book at the beginning of the relationship. In addition to that, many, many women go back to their abusers-- and it just doesn't end with one breakup. I guess it's a little easier when you're a teen and still under the jurisdiction of your parents, but there's always that weird part of victims, that try calling or seeing this person again. The power these men wield over their victims is terrifying.
I did like how the last girlfriend of Cole's shows up again. That was the one part that I thought was great. I wish my friend had someone like that. Instead, every friend she had drifted away, and she was left with just me. And although I'm so grateful that I stuck by her and helped her get away from her abuser, I'm not sure psychologically that I could go through that again if given the choice.
Overall, I was disappointed. I felt like the reasons behind each of the characters motivations was just very trite and overdone, and I felt like the relationship could have been more realistically depicted.