Thursday, May 8, 2014

Kiss of Broken Glass

Kiss of Broken GlassKiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What makes me feel alive?  I mean, more alive than just the fact that I am sitting here, breathing, with my heart pumping, my fingers tapping?

Flying down a roller coaster hill at 60mph.

Basking in the sunshine after a Wisconsin Winter.

Hearing the jet engines whine as I fly off to a new place.

For some kids--maybe even a lot of kids--self-validation and adrenaline rushes come from other actions.  Restricting food.  Poking a needle into a vein.  Drawing a blade across skin.  The world of ED and self-harm is wildly complex, and yet underrepresented in YA literature.  I understand that there is a level of caution authors must maintain when writing about these triggering topics.  However, we still whisper "self-harm" or "cutting" like people whispered about the "mental illness" in my family.  Shh, don't say it too loud.  It will hear you and get worse.

I've never cut myself (on purpose.  Am a clumsy oaf otherwise).  I don't have firsthand experience.  However, I think it's important to read books about the topic and have conversations about it.  Otherwise, how am I a good teen librarian?  How am I a good human being?  So, I hope it's not too odd to say that I was really looking forward to this book when I saw it on Edelweiss.

Let me be clear: my rating of this book in no way invalidates the author's experience, her daughter's experience, or any cutter's experience.  I am very glad that this was published so that we have another title to offer kids who feel alone in their self-harm.  However, I think that had this been longer and more fleshed out, it would have been a much better book.

Kiss of Broken Glass is written in verse, so automatically I thought about Ellen Hopkins and her teen problem novels in verse.  Full disclosure: I've only read Crank and I'm ambivalent about it.  It was good-ish, to use very proper English indeed.  KOBG is definitely more free verse with less playing around with structure and mirror techniques.  I appreciated that.  The verse was simple, but often at the end of a chapter, there would be a pretty hard-hitting revelation or confession.  I'm not sure if my ARC contains the final formatting, however, so I don't know if I can really speak to that.

I had two main issues with this title that caused me to lower my rating.

1) The main character's development occurs much too neatly for my taste, but most of the other plot points are left hanging.  Kenna is 15 and she's been cutting since she got into high school and realized that in order to fit in, she *had* to join this cutting Sisterhood.  She longs for the adoration of that group's Queen Bee.  She admits that she has no reason to cut except to impress another girl.  Her family life, while not ideal, is not abusive.  She's not cutting to release pain--she's cutting to fit in and ride the endorphin high.

I found myself wondering how many kids could relate to that.  Kenna doesn't address her dysfunctional relationship with her clique, nor does she indicate that she won't be hanging out with them after she's released from the clinic.  This "reason" for cutting skirted a lot of the deep and messy issues that lead to self-harm in teens.

Her experiences in the center mimic other "rehab" stories very closely--too closely for my taste.  It's Kind of a Funny Story (oh, Ned Vizzini.  You are missed) and Clean by Amy Reed both come to mind.  You don't need to have a romance and a sassy GLBTQ friend in order to have a story.

2) The secondary characters don't seem to have a reason to even exist.  Even Kenna's love interest, the skater dude who is of course INSANELY GORGEOUS, doesn't have much of a personality.  I guess he had anger management issues??? Seriously, that's all I could really figure out about him.  Kenna complains about her family.  Her stepdad works all the time.  Her mom loves her sister more.  Her older sister is perfect.  Her younger brother is adorable and innocent and the reason she stops cutting.  Wow, that's like the stock-photo family for any teen problem story.  I've read it a million times.  It didn't get any better on the 1,00,001th reading.

I understand that the author wrote this because her daughter actually had an experience similar to Kenna's.  While it is good to talk about this, I always feel a bit awkward when it comes out that a parent has written a YA problem novel based on his/her child's issues.  I am glad they seem to be doing well now, though.  Just that part of the author's note might really help some people.

I wanted this to be extraordinary, but for me, it wasn't.  I'd recommend Cut instead.

I received an ARC courtesy of Edelweiss and the publisher.  All opinions in this review are my own.


View all my reviews

If you need to talk to someone about self-harm, please do so.  SiOS, 1-800-273-TALK, 1-800-DON’T-CUT, http://www.selfinjury.com, and To Write Love on Her Arms are just a few resources for you.  

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