“When we came out on the other side, I held my breath, both hands pressed against my stomach, my heart pounding.” (pp 78)
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 understands her and loves her for who she really is.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, 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.
*Summary taken from Goodreads.
Bitter End is a book that will take the reader on a rollercoaster full of emotions, so powerful that it will leave them feeling raw, conflicted, and filled with such awareness that they will find themselves unable to ignore it any longer. This is a novel that I personally feel, every young adult and adult in general, should be reading and the lesson it provides is one that they could greatly benefit from.
Jennifer Brown does not hesitate to tell the complicated story of a young girl, Alex, who finds herself in an abusive relationship, dealing with jealousy issues, physical violence, and hurtful words that are just as effective as every pinch endured. Her turn of phrase is excellent if not poetic in a sense and lends itself quite well, to the strong character development and the darker more rich and complex theme of abuse. This is probably one of the most realistic portrayls of domestic abuse in young adult literature, aside from Deb Caletti's more recent novel, Stay.
The story does well to illustrate the simple act of falling in love with someone, then realizing later on that they really aren't the person you fell in love with. They came with flaws and sometimes, those flaws possess more of a hurtful nature than a loving quality. So many questions about the inner working's of the main protagonist come to life, because Alex is so convinced that Cole would never hurt her that he could never hurt her. So, when he does, she takes it and she makes excuses for why he did it when there are no excuses. She becomes so alone and even starts to blame herself, most of all.
Alex wants to believe with all of her heart, that there is no way possible in the world, that he would ever truly want to hurt her and that every time Cole says he's sorry and that he will change - that he will make up for it - she believes him. He's chipped away so much of who she is, that this is what is left of her at this point in their relationship. Alex is a complex character and I applaud Jennifer Brown for bringing her to life and giving her such a strong and powerful voice big enough to stop the abuse, that's more realistic than any I've read before.
Bitter End is a novel that has so much strength and spirit and bravery, that it is almost necessary and probably should be mandatory to read it and learn from it, and to learn how to break the cycle of abuse. It is a cycle and until it's broken, until it's made very clear that it is not going to be tolerated or accepted, it will continue to happen for as long as it can until these young girls and women are strong enough to find a voice loud enough to demand that it stops.
It's very clear to me that Jennifer Brown had a clear and concise vision for the story that she wanted to tell and she should be applauded for exposing the horrific and realistic truth about domestic violence and how it can destroy lives and all of the people involved. This is why, I am giving it the full five stars, because it was that compelling and it was that realistic, but most of all it was that important.