Thursday, February 28, 2013

Whatever Doesn’t Kill You

Whatever Doesn’t Kill You
Elizabeth Wennick
Orca, 2013
$12.95, Softcover

Genre: Realistic
Age: 12+
Description: Fifteen-year-old Jenna Cooper was literally just a few days old when her father was murdered in his convenience store and her life changed forever. She now spends most of her time day dreaming about a perfect sitcom family (like those in Family Ties or The Cosby Show) to replace her dim reality. Her mother is in a nursing home and doesn’t remember her at all, thinking Jenna is still a toddler. She lives with her older brother (he’s about 32) who tries his best to support his siblings by being the apartment manager of the dump they live in. Asides from her, she also lives with her older sister (she’s about 24) who is constantly in and out of the apartment and could disappear for days at a time leaving her young son in Jenna’s care. Jenna is shocked to discover that the man who killed her father, Travis Bingham, is being released from jail. She becomes obsessed (according to her friends who can’t understand why she wants to dwell on the past) with tracking him down and talking to him—confronting him about the horrible life that she was forced to live. However, what she doesn’t expect is to discover that Travis isn’t the evil man she thought he’d turn out to be and he in fact has been covering a huge secret involving her entire family.
Opinion: Whatever Doesn’t Kill You is a compelling read. Jenna is a relatable character. Her friends think she is obsessed with confronting Travis to the point that they get in a huge argument and her friends refuse to talk to her. Jenna ends up befriending the local popular girl who has also fallen from the good graces of her friend. Together they track down Travis and work out what the family secrets are. SPOLIER Turns out her idolized father wasn’t the nice family man she always pictured him. He took Travis in for a while when he and Simon (her brother) were in high school. The boys wanted to get away from him so they planned to rob the place for cash to get out of town. Travis would rob it while Simon was working. Unfortunately, things changed the last minute and Simon’s dad ended up there instead and accidentally got shot. Simon never talked to Travis once he was arrested and ended up getting probation while Travis spent 15 years in prison. Simon’s been living a guilt ridden life, sacrificing his college dreams and social life to try and raise his siblings. The writing is engaging and Jenna, as I mentioned, is a great character. Her friends aren’t really fleshed out though—they are mainly the stereotypical outsiders in high school. Some of the “changes” seem a little contrived and too easy as well. This includes the snobby girl’s change from bitch to a member of Jenna’s crew and her sister’s sudden turn around that seems to be permanent. However, those are minor issues in an overall great read.

*Thanks to Leslie Bootle at Orca for providing an ARC of this title for the YA Galley Group project!*

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