Book: Bitter End by Jennifer Brown
Published May 2011 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|359 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
Genre: YA Contemporary
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.
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.
I am a huge fan of Jennifer Brown, and ever since I read Hate List (which I loved, and it’s also set a high standard that none of her other books have managed to live up to), I’ve been working my way through her other books.
Brown does have a way of writing characters you care about, and she certainly deals with really difficult things VERY well. Bitter End is no exception, and her portrayal of an abusive relationship was really well done, especially when you read the author’s note at the end of the book that explains why she wrote this story.
This is the book you use to talk about abusive relationships with teens- both teenage boys and teenage girls.
I think Bitter End is a great starting point for talking about it because it actually deals with an abusive relationship, and why Alex couldn’t (and wouldn’t) tell anyone what was going on, and what she was thinking throughout her relationship with Cole. It didn’t have the emotion I thought it would, but Brown painted a really good picture of what was going on.
I have a feeling that a lot of people will be frustrated with Alex, and why she stayed with Cole, even though he abused her. That’s the point of the book- you see WHY she stays, and what it finally took for her to leave. There were glimmers of why she loved Cole, and how hard it was for her to leave him. It’s really easy to say that you’re never going to end up in Alex’s situation, but how do you really know how you’d deal with it, or what you’d do if you were in that situation?
I think what frustrated me the most was that her best friends knew. They KNEW and did nothing, even though she told them what was going on…and they apparently told her younger sister, who also did nothing. It also seemed like her boss maybe suspected what was going on. But as frustrating as it was, I also understand why they might not say anything about it, and while I would like to think I’d do something if Alex was my best friend…I don’t know. Do you really know how you’d react or what you’d do ahead of time? And I wish we did get why they didn’t seem to go to an adult with it. Maybe it’s because Alex’s friendships with Zack and Bethany broke down, or maybe they felt like they’d rat her out, and I can understand their frustration with her for ditching them, and not hearing them out when they tried to talk to her about Cole. Maybe they just gave up.
It was frustrating to see how she wasn’t really willing to hear them them out, but at the same time, you see that they don’t really give him a chance either. It seems like they have a feeling he’s not a good guy, and if there is something else they know, it’s something we don’t know. I get why she wouldn’t hear them out, though. And at the end of the book, it does seem like they’re friends-ish, enough to go on the trip, but not the best friends they were before Cole came into their lives.
I do wish it had been developed a little more- Bitter End felt more rushed than the other books I’ve read by Brown, and the characters didn’t feel as developed as they could have been, but it’s still really easy to understand why they act they way they do.
Even with Cole. It’s implied that things aren’t great at home, and it’s also implied that his dad abuses/abused his mom. It’s never said if Cole himself was abused, but based on the one scene we get with his dad, it wouldn’t surprise me. I’m sure there’s a lot of research out there about why people become abusers, and I get the feeling Cole is a poster child for that.
3 stars. Brown really painted a picture in tackling abusive relationships, and even though I feel like the book was a little rushed and underdeveloped (more than her other books), it’s still a really good starting point to talk about abusive relationships.