AUTHOR Jennifer Brown
PUBLICATION May 10, 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
READ August 15, 2012
When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole -- a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her -- she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her.After reading Brown's Hate List and seeing how she tackled tough issues in a very realistic, head on manner I was quick to pick up everything I could by her and knew that I had to read them all. I went into Bitter End with mixed emotions as I had high hopes due to the author's previous work but I often find myself struggling to connect to abused women in books. Yes, I am that girl, I read through the pages and roll my eyes at the characters inability to just walk away from the situation and come out having had a less than enjoyable experience. Bitter End changed that, I literally could not put this book down. I read it on a sunny afternoon and found myself unable to walk away from it. I went and made the kids breakfast and raced back outside to pick up where I left off in Alex's story.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats.
As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose -- between her "true love" and herself.
What this novel did for me, I haven't come across before. I connected with Alex and I completely understood her reasoning for sticking around in a toxic situation. She had found love and was feeling it in a way that she had never felt before. Her inner dialogue takes the reader through the thought patterns of being abused so perfectly; pain, anger, betrayal, and ultimately regret. Bitter End is written so perfectly in every way I can think of that I connected to it having never been abused myself. The progressions were spot on, whether it was the abusive relationship, Alex's friendship with Zack and Bethany or her home life with her family.
Alex was a complex character, who even though she was an abused person staying in the relationship, she had her head on her shoulders. I have never been able to understand the mentality that would make someone stay in an abusive relationship, but I think Alex made me understand. She had a crappy home life, didn't get along with her sisters and her father has been absent since her mother's death but she had the kind of friendships anyone would hope for. The scenes with Alex, Bethany and Zack were hilarious and oftentimes I found myself laughing out loud at their jabs toward one another. Even though she had such strong friendships she longed for a love and understanding that you can't find in friends and when she found it in the, seemingly, perfect Cole she thought she had it all.
Cole was bang on your typical abuser. He was sweet as pie at first but as their relationship went on and he became jealous his dark side began to push through the surface. He would hurt Alex and then say all the right things to get her back into the relationship. I was heartbroken watching him play her emotions and make all the false promises he could. There is a scene with him that involves drunk driving that probably should have been at least addressed in the story and wasn't but with so much going on I can see why it would have been glossed over in the expanse of things.
This is by no means a happy story with a happily ever after. It is gritty and does not shy away from the issue at hand, but it is real and I think that is needed to make a good, memorable story. I'm not a believer in thinking the bad parts of our society should be avoided in novels, because it's out there and it's reality, and Jennifer Brown knows how to write about them in the most perfect way I can possibly imagine.
Read. This. Book. NOW.