child abuse

All posts tagged child abuse

If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch

Published May 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

What happens in the woods, stays in the woods. . .

Carey is keeping a terrible secret. If she tells, it could destroy her future. If she doesn’t, will she ever be free?

For almost as long as she can remember, Carey has lived in a camper van in the heart of the woods with her drug-addicted mother and six-year-old sister, Jenessa. Her mother routinely disappears for weeks at a time, leaving the girls to cope alone. Survival is Carey’s only priority – until strangers arrive and everything changes . . .

What did I think?:

If You Find Me was another book pushed onto me by my sister, Chrissi Reads and I included it in one of my bi-yearly Chrissi Cupboard Months. I’ve mentioned before when she recommends that I read a book, I really should listen because she is preparing me for something amazing but I really wasn’t prepared for how outstanding this novel was. Warning – it deals with some VERY tough and emotive subjects, including child neglect/abuse so if you’re particularly sensitive to those subjects, this might not be the book for you. However, I was surprised by how much hope and joy filled these pages, despite the horrific past that our main character and her sister have had to suffer. Additionally, although some people have criticised the “tied up in a bow,” ending, I thought it was the perfect way to wrap up a heart-breaking yet optimistic story.

Our female lead is a fifteen year old girl called Carey who lives with her younger sister, Jenessa (Nessa) in a camper van in the middle of the woods with their drug addict mother. Carey is responsible for all of her younger sister’s care and her mother disappears for long periods of time, sometimes days, occasionally weeks meaning that Carey must look after, feed and entertain a little girl who hasn’t known anything different from the life that they lead.

One day, their mother has been gone for a particularly long time and strangers arrive to take the two girls away, back to a family of their biological father, stepmother and a stepsister who have been living their lives completely ignorant of the trials that Carey and Nessa have had to suffer. Both girls must now learn to live in a world where school is mandatory, large groups of people and noises can be terrifying and they must get to know a complete stranger who calls himself their father. Meanwhile, Carey is hiding a terrible secret about their time in the woods, something that no-one must find out. Yet people are starting to ask questions, especially as to why Nessa remains mute and refuses to speak. What secret could be so dangerous that they are petrified to tell another living soul?

As I’ve alluded to in the beginning of my review, this book goes to very dark places and I don’t think you’ll be able to read this story without being moved in some way. For me, it was a very peculiar experience. The reader only sees a snippet of their time in the woods, they are rescued quite early on in the novel but what I saw was seriously enough for me. I felt dread in the pit of my stomach, that horrible lump in your throat when you try not to cry and at times, I thought I would have to take a break. It’s not explicit in the slightest, let me assure you. Although I was horribly upset at the situation Carey and Nessa found themselves in, I think I was really affected by the relationship between the siblings. I’m the oldest of three children myself and as you’re probably aware, I’m very close to my little sister. Carey’s relationship with Nessa very much reminded me of the way I feel towards Chrissi – hugely protective, almost as if I was a bear and she was my cub! (Chrissi’s so going to laugh at this….).

In all seriousness, Carey is like the mother that Nessa has never had and I really felt awful for her, having to grow up well before her time and take on all that responsibility of the care-giver that SHOULD have been down to their mother. This is also reflected when she is taken away from the situation, the adult way of speaking she uses, the way she tries to fit in at school and how she reacts to her father and new family. Carey has always had to be the strong one and protect Nessa, despite the feelings she has herself which are often hidden as a way of shielding her sister. It broke my heart at times how much she tried to hold it together and be resilient. I just wanted to give her a hug!

Most of this novel is based after Carey and Nessa escape the woods and although I wasn’t sure I was going to connect with this part I was incredibly wrong. I loved seeing their journey, how they adapt to “normal life,” the moments when they realise that they might be safe and no-one will hurt them again and, of course, the revelations of the huge secret and burden that the girls are carrying with them. This is a stunning, emotional and powerful piece of writing that was difficult to read at points but so very rewarding. Wait a minute…it’s a debut novel?! I will certainly be looking out for other books by Emily Murdoch and indeed reading anything else she happens to write.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



Paper Butterflies – Lisa Heathfield

Published February 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

June’s life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one—and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom… But at what price?

What did I think?:

One of the people I think knows me and my reading tastes very well is my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. She often shoves books into my hands, begging me to prioritise it on my next Chrissi Cupboard Month (which I do twice a year) and over the years, I’ve learned to listen. I know that this book deeply affected her and she warned me it might destroy me also. Yet I still wasn’t prepared. I read parts of this book one-handed as I couldn’t help but put my other hand over my mouth in disgust, in disbelief and indeed, in terror for what our main character June, suffers in her life and how it affects her going forward as a young adult. It’s a horrific story with trigger warnings for physical and emotional abuse and I hesitate to say I enjoyed it but it was one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time.

This is the story of June, a mixed race young girl who lives with her white father, his new wife, Kathleen and her daughter Megan and attends a predominantly white school. June’s mother had died some years earlier and she is still struggling to cope with the grief from her loss but unfortunately, has bigger problems to deal with. This encompasses feeling like a complete outsider in her own family, feeling neglected, ugly, insignificant, unimportant and trying to cope with the way that her voice is always quietened and never allowed to be heard. June is stuck in a terrible situation with an archetypal evil stepmother and a wicked stepsister who becomes an accomplice in her mother’s crimes and her situation is not helped by a hapless, blind father who refuses to see what is right in front of his nose. Her only joy in life comes from a new friend she meets, Blister who begins to make her feel that her own self-worth is something that should never be beaten down or compromised.

I don’t really want to say too much about the plot as always, this book is something you just have to discover for yourself. It broke my heart over and over again in different ways and made me so furious as June continues to suffer and her suffering is constantly ignored by the people who are supposed to be there to protect you. Of course, I thank my lucky stars that I have never been in these horrific circumstances but I have had a few personal experiences with bullies when I told someone “in charge,” what was happening to me and I was either ignored or not believed and it’s a very emotional, almost life-changing thing to go through. There’s a few scenes in particular in Paper Butterflies that were almost too difficult to read, are still vivid in my mind and occasionally I had to put down the book for a little break as it just got overly sickening and I was close to tears. As I mentioned before, this is an intense and powerful read and it reminded me somewhat of A Little Life in its brutal honesty. It’s strange to say, this was a gut-wrenching, harrowing read but it’s one that I simply have to give the “big five,” as I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



Hush Little Baby – Joanna Barnard

Published November 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When baby Oliver breaks his arm, no-one can (or will) say how it happened.

His mother is exhausted.

His father is angry.

His older sister is resentful.

And they all have something to hide

What did I think?:

First of all, a big thank you to Ebury Press, part of Penguin Random House publishers for sending me a copy of this fantastic thriller in exchange for an honest review. Hush Little Baby was released in August 2017 and apologies that I’m only getting round to reading it now, I certainly won’t make that mistake again with any future novel I happen to read by Joanna Barnard. This book was such a wonderful surprise, exciting, tense and twisty that delves into some very dark places and controversial issues with ease and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment, racing through it in less than twenty-four hours like a woman possessed!

The above synopsis says everything you really need to know concerning what this book is about. As you may know, I’m not one for revealing spoilers so I’m hoping to be as deliberately vague as possible regarding the plot. It’s basically the story of a family – Sally, her husband Richard, their baby Oliver and Oliver’s teenage half-sister Martha. All their lives are turned upside down one night when Oliver has to be rushed to hospital after mysteriously breaking his arm with an injury the hospital are certain is unequivocally not accidental. No one is accepting responsibility for the incident and each member of the family has their own issues to deal with about the night in question i.e. where they were, what they were doing etc. Now social services have become involved and have removed Oliver from his parents to his grandparents custody whilst they try to find out what has happened. Hush Little Baby is a novel where parental responsibilities are questioned, dark secrets are unearthed and the actions of all our characters are revealed slowly and steadily with an ending that will leave you dumbfounded and in my case, slightly unsettled.

This fascinating novel is told in one of my favourite ways, from multiple perspectives. We hear from all three “potentially guilty,” parties in alternating chapters: Sally, Richard and Martha who were all there in some way when baby Oliver was injured. It was quite early on in the story that I began to have opinions on all three persons concerned, all of whom have made mistakes on that night but it’s up to the reader to decide who indeed might have made the biggest mistake. The plot itself deals with multiple issues, apart from the obvious issue of child abuse/neglect, it also explores mental illness, relationship difficulties and there are trigger warnings for self-harm which you should be aware of if you are sensitive to this subject. Because of this, it goes to some incredibly murky depths to paint the picture of what *might* have happened to Oliver and who *may* be to blame.

I have to say it made my emotions go haywire at points, particularly with the character depiction. I wanted to shake one of them at one point, I despised another with a passion and then I wanted to just take another far away from it all. It is the story of what happened to Oliver but mainly, it’s a novel about how a relationship can be affected by a crisis such as this, how people either do or do not take responsibility for their actions and how detrimental your actions can be to another person (or people) without even being aware of it. If you’re after a psychological thriller that is much more about the reactions of characters rather than what actually happened to the child, I would definitely read this book. Personally, I’ll definitely be checking out Joanna’s first book, Precocious on the strength of this one and I can hardly wait.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Short Stories Challenge – The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Published September 5, 2016 by bibliobeth


What’s The Lordly Ones all about?:

The final story in this collection tells the tale of a young, mute boy who appears to finally get the love and family he so desperately craves.

What did I think?:

I’ve absolutely loved exploring this short story collection by Daphne du Maurier and reading her short fiction has just cemented her forever as one of my favourite authors. There have been only a couple of stories in The Breaking Point that I haven’t been too sure about but in general, I have found this to be a fantastic read that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. The Lordly Ones ended things on a complete high and is just as dark and unsettling as the other stories in the collection, even more so perhaps as it involves a child starved of adequate love from his parents and who appears to be at least emotionally abused (occasionally physically) on a daily basis.

The boy in question is mute and although we are not sure of his age, we know that he is old enough where he should have started communicating. His parents seem to resent the fact that Ben is not like other children and punish him at the drop of a hat which involves locking him in a dark cupboard or smacking him. Their reaction is often in response to a terrible sound that comes from the boy’s mouth when he becomes distressed and is one that he is unable to control. Instead of comforting him, the parents take out their frustration on him emotionally and physically which only leads to him feeling more confused and isolated.

Then the family go through a bit of an upheaval and move house into the countryside by some beautiful moors. The process is quite bewildering for Ben because of his communication difficulties and because his parents make little effort to let him know what is going on. He is somewhat comforted when they arrive at their new house by the gorgeous surroundings and a nice woman who meets them at the property who offers him biscuits and confides in him about some strange visitors that often come at night to try and steal food from the house larder.

Ben is intrigued by the moor visitors but cannot bear to think of them as thieves so kind-heartedly, he takes the remaining food from the larder and leaves it on the green outside the house as a gift for the night callers. However, when his parents discover the missing food, he is beaten until he can hardly move by a rather over-enthusiastic father trying to teach his son a lesson. During the night, he manages to catch a glimpse of the visitors in the garden – a strange, wild family group that have clear mother, father and child relationships and have a strong, loving bond. Overwhelmed by the connection between them all he decides to escape with them into the night where he is instantly accepted, fed and taken care of. The visitors are not all they seem however and the reader gets quite a surprise when their identities are announced leading to an abrupt and rather haunting ending.

One of my favourite things about the stories in this collection is how they all involve characters who seem to be at “the breaking point,” and often explores quite dark and uncomfortable themes. This made some of the stories difficult to read at times, especially The Lordly Ones where child abuse/neglect is the prominent theme but it was undeniably hard to put down. I hated the parents in this story so much and felt so sorry for poor Ben so it tugged on my emotions in a number of ways! Yet again, the author has proved her absolute brilliance in story-telling and I’ll be returning to re-read The Breaking Point in the future for sure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Banned Books 2016 – APRIL READ – A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Published April 25, 2016 by bibliobeth

bannedbooks11330361What’s it all about?:

In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.
For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse.

For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.

On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.


Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our fourth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

MAY – Drama- Raina Telgemeier

JUNE -Captain Underpants- Dav Pilkey

JULY – A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl- Tanya Lee Stone

AUGUST – Bless Me Ultima- Rudolfo Anaya

SEPTEMBER – Bone- Jeff Smith

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

First published: 2011

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Not really, no. Because this book is a memoir of something terrible that actually happened to an eleven year old child I think it’s a really important read that more people should be aware of. I was slightly surprised (and quite horrified) at how explicit the book was in points and that’s the only reason why I would hesitate for it to be used in a classroom environment with younger children. For older teenagers – definitely yes, it should be available and recommended by a librarian or a teacher.

CHRISSI:  Yes and no. In a classroom environment with young teenagers- yes. I understand. I know it’s something that shouldn’t be shied away from, it really happened and it does happen, but I worry that it’s too sensitive an issue to discuss in a classroom. However, if a teacher did want to take it on then I would have the utmost respect for them as I think it’s a book that should be explored. I definitely think it should be recommended to older teenagers. It’s important that it’s read and discussed as it contains so many sensitive subjects that need to be identified in a safe environment.

How about now?

BETH: This is a fairly recent release (2011) so I don’t believe things have changed much in the past five years. One of the reasons given for challenging the book i.e. that it contains drugs/alcohol/smoking I feel is quite ridiculous as I don’t think teenagers should be sheltered from things that clearly happen in the outside world and may give them vital information that they can learn from to help them make informed choices about such things.

CHRISSI: I think the only reason why I have doubts about this book is because it is such a harrowing read and could potentially trigger individuals that have experienced similar things. For being banned for drugs/alcohol and smoking- I totally disagree. Teenagers and young adults experience these things in every day life. Why hide from it?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’d hesitate to say I “enjoyed” it as at points it was quite a harrowing read – especially when Jaycee was first kidnapped. The length of time she was held, the childhood she lost and the sexual abuse that she had to suffer was truly terrifying. It was interesting to read her journal entries and try to figure out the mind-set of her kidnapper who was obviously mentally disturbed in quite a few ways. It’s a hugely important read that I think teenagers should be exposed to and I commend the bravery of the author in speaking out about her traumatic experience.

CHRISSI: I can’t say that I ‘enjoyed’ it, like Beth says. It was hard to read at times. It was incredibly explicit. I hated reading about the way she was treated and how her childhood was stolen. However, it is such an important read!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Join us again on the last Monday of May when we will be discussing Drama by Raina Telgemeier.


Short Stories Challenge – Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Published November 8, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s Corrugated Dreaming all about?:

Corrugated Dreaming is the story of a woman in prison, reflecting back on her life and the crime she committed to put her in the situation in which she now finds herself.

What did I think?:

I love starting a short story collection such as this one where I know practically nothing about the writer or her work, especially when the first story in the collection is as beautifully worded and presented like this one is. When we first meet our character she is in prison and she is looking back on a life that has been far from easy. The first thing we learn about her is that she is mute but she hasn’t always been this way. Her early childhood is described as the happiest time of her life where she played with her older brother Johnny in a scrapyard which acts as their garden filled with dis-used vehicles and corrugated iron. Her mother we are told, lives with a demon called Reg who is clearly a drunk and beats her mother in front of the children, one time throwing her into the iron in the yard.

Our character remembers that day very clearly as it is after this incident that Social Services arrives to take the children away and it is the last time that she sees her brother Johnny, who is the closest person in her life and the devastation of their separation is also the last time that she talks. Heart-breakingly, she is told that her cough is actually pneumonia and she is ashamed of her stomach which looks like: “five years of bad gas,” representing the very obvious neglect of her and Johnny under her mother and Reg’s care. Her life after this just gets worse and worse, being shipped out to various sets of foster parents but none whom she remembers as well as the last set, the God-fearing Maxwells who actually put the fear of God into her! They take great issue with her skin colour and she feels she has to make up for her entire culture being so full of sin and wickedness.

At school things are just as bad for her with a headmaster that takes a repulsive pleasure in punishing her often. After finding out some unbelievably horrid news concerning her brother Johnny it is no surprise that she continues her life in silence, after all what is there to be said about such an appalling life? I was surprised however by the turn the story took and the actual crime that she committed. I won’t say any more about that but it’s one of the saddest stories I’ve come across in my short stories challenge and I will probably be thinking about it for a long time to come. I’m just so glad I came across this writer, her use of language is phenomenal and she certainly paints a dramatic and spell-binding picture in a short space of time. She reeled me in with her poetic phrases and I loved the way in which corrugated iron is often referred to by the character as she compares events in her life (past and present) with something that plays a part in the happiest memory of her otherwise bleak childhood. Cannot wait for the next story in this collection – the bar has certainly been set high.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles