Monday, December 3, 2012

Bitter End

Bitter End
Jennifer Brown
ISBN: 978-0316086950
Little Brown, 2011

Plot Summary: Straight-A student and tutor Alex falls hard for the new boy in school—charming and handsome Cole. She’s assigned to help tutor him and is shocked when he shows signs of liking her back. At first, their relationship is total bliss. She feels like she has found someone who truly gets her. Cole loves her poetry and he understands parental difficulties since his mom is “crazy” and his dad pressures him a lot while Alex’s sister is actually mentally ill and her dad doesn’t pay any attention to her not since her mother, who also had mental problems, attempted to run away to Colorado and died in a car accident on the way there. Unfortunately, Alex’s long-time plans with her best friends, Bethany and Zack, to travel to Colorado as a graduation trip to try and figure out why her mother needed to go there and abandon her family to do it causes Cole to become jealous of their close relationship. Soon tensions between old friends and new boyfriend turn Alex’s life into a living hell as Cole seems to not be the perfect boyfriend she thought he was. What starts with a push turns into pinching, put-downs, and ever escalating violent threats. Alex stays with Cole because he always promises to change. Will Alex be able to escape the relationship before something worse than a push happens?

Critical Evaluation: Bitter End is a typical story of a girl caught in an abusive relationship. Long before Alex sees it herself, Zach and Bethany see Cole as the bad guy he truly is and try their best to warn Alex away from him. Sadly, Alex is so caught up in her love that she’s blind to the reality going on around her that is common to such stories—the friendly warnings, the ex-girlfriend who warns her, the promises of changing, the teeter-totter affect of her feelings for him. It’s an emotional book as Alex’s whole life is soon wrapped up in possessive Cole and when she realizes she needs to get out she feels caught between no one to turn to and being afraid of being looked at as the girl who got abused by her boyfriend. In an author’s note readers will learn that Jennifer Brown actually did a thesis during her psychology degree on abused women to see how someone could say they’d never let a man treat them like that and then end up caught in an abusive relationship. So Brown’s story is based in psychological fact. The book also ends with an afterword, questions and answers on abuse, and a list of further resources.  

Reader's Annotation: A brutally realistic story of one girl’s love and entanglement in an abusive relationship.  

Author Information: Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Brown’s weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist. Her debut novel, Hate List received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA "Perfect Ten," and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Her second novel, Bitter End received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Brown writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, area with her husband and three children (Brown, n.d.).

Genre: Realistic

Curriculum Ties: Relationship/Health class

Booktalking Ideas: Read a scene where she falls for Cole. Read a scene of tension where she thinks he will hurt her.  

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues: Minor language, sexual situations, violence

Challenge Defense: If this book were challenged, I would make sure the library has a Challenge Defense File ready for such a situation. Inside the Challenge Defense File, librarians and the public could find:

·        A copy of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at
·        A copy of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at
·        A copy of the library’s own selection policy (my library, the La Vista Public Library, has a policy but it is not online so I can’t link to it as an example).
·        A copy of the library’s citizen’s complaint/reconsideration form (my library, the La Vista Public Library’s, form is called the City of La Vista Service Request form).
·        Copies of reviews—both good and bad—from reputable library and publishing services to justify why a book was selected for inclusion in the collection. These include not only reviews from such journals as School Library Journal, VOYA, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, but also any mention of books on YALSA lists and other copies of articles about any awards or nominations such books may have received.
·        Include a short rationale file for other coworkers so if the librarian in charge of selecting materials is not available when a challenge occurs the other staff members have some information to go by (the rational would include such information as a short summary, what could be challenged, reviews, awards and nominations, etc.)
·        Include for staff members a copy of “Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials,” a document written by the American Library Association. Make sure that staff reviews this document periodically so they are prepared and know how to face such situations. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at

Reason for Inclusion: A well-written realistic novel.


Brown, J. (n.d.). The official stuff . . .  Retrieved from

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