Release date: 17th March 2020
Publisher: Tor Teen
Blurb: In the tradition of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, a devastating but hopeful YA debut about a ballerina who finds the courage to confront the abuse that haunts her past and threatens her future.
There are two kinds of people on the planet. Hunters and prey
I thought I would be safe after my mother died. I thought I could stop searching for new places to hide. But you can’t escape what you are, what you’ve always been.
My name is Savannah Darcy Rose.
And I am still prey.
Though Savannah Rose―Sparrow to her friends and family―is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Sparrow has always believed that her lifelong creed―“I’m not the kind of girl who tells”―will make her just like everyone else: Normal. Happy. Safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Sparrow must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past or lose herself forever….
This book broke me in ways I have never been broken before. Imagine this – you are curled up on your bed about to read for about an hour before going to sleep because #retaillife means you work at 9am on a Sunday. Next thing you know you are 20% in and starting to feel just a tad uncomfortable with the whole thing, but you have another 15 minutes before sleep time. Now it’s midnight and you’re crying. 1am and you are sobbing like a baby because, damn, he’s super messed up. Suddenly, its 2am, your husband is demanding you go to sleep and you have just finished. Then you stare at the roof for an hour because holy shit that hurt you in your blackened, dead heart. This sequence of events is about how my night went (I made it to work on time but only because husband made me coffee, breakfast, lunch and laid out my uniform…)
Going into Sparrow I expected a bit of a love story, some ballet fun, a guy who was a bit of a dick and slapped his gf around, the hero friend to come to the rescue and then it to all be tied up into a neat little bow because it’s a YA and you wouldn’t leave a defenceless teenager broken into 1000 pieces would you? I was so SO SO wrong. This novel is so heavy and ridiculously confronting. Not only does Sparrow play the role of the domestic abuse survivor to a tee – she has mannerisms that so many adapt to cope with their abusers actions – her abuser/s act in ways that I have seen firsthand.
So, I really need to put a trigger warning here because although I’m fairly sure Tor would have had the insight to include warnings in the published work, I don’t remember seeing any on the uncorrected proof file. There is substantial abuse (we are not talking only verbal and mild physical abuse; Sparrow is beaten to within an inch of her life and left with some absolutely devastating injuries to accompany it), alcohol abuse, what comes across as victim shaming, abuse of a minor, discussion of mental health, discussions of psychosis and many more minor ones that have slipped my mind I’m sure. While I am not going to divulge my own story, just know that if you have been subjected to this sort of behaviour in the past you are more than likely going to need to head into this with the knowledge that things will come up that may affect you profoundly.
But back to the review. As I said before, Sparrow is a heavy hitter when it comes to emotional journeys. It is told from the alternating points of view of Sparrow and her pas de deux partner Lucas. While she thinks she is in love and slowly becomes the victim of her boyfriend, Tristan, Lucas plays devils advocate and calls her out on all the things he sees Sparrow do to protect her abuser. Following the scene that leaves her fighting for her life, the tale is predominantly focussed on Lucas and his battle to come to terms with the fact that Sparrow’s abuser is walking free. Finally, it evens out in the final third so as both POV’s occupy about half the novel. While both POV’s feature very unique themes, they balance each other out well.
As for the narrative, it felt loosely like a play on the Black Swan’s decline into madness from that movie that we all love to hate. Sparrow starts out a strong and confident woman and throughout the first 1/3 of the novel, the reader sees her lose that quality until it comes to a point whereby her friends start questioning her actions. Then there is the big scene that changes everything, and we get to see not only Sparrow but also Lucas deal with the fallout of Tristan’s actions. Now take into account this whole saga takes place over close to a year, so it gives a fairly short time for grieving, healing and all those things that accompany catastrophic events in ones life. I have seen many reviews where they have commented on the timing of everything and that sometimes we go ‘back in time’ when there is a change in POV – all of these are clearly stated in the chapter titles so should one get lost, it is fairly easy to work out who is where while everything plays out.
Overall, it’s just a beautiful novel that will quite possibly affect you in ways you cannot comprehend. While it is brutal and occasionally a little graphic (you can almost feel Tristan dragging you down a rocky path at one point), it tells a story of hope as well as loss. All I can say is you need to make the decision about this novel for yourself because it seems a little polarising from what I’ve read.
Until next time lovelies xo