I just finished reading a rather.. disturbing young adult novel. Truly have never read anything like it.
At the end of the book on the about the author section it says something like if all goes well the author will be out of high school by the time you read this. I literally had to read that sentence a couple times! I think it’s amazing for someone to write a novel like this before even going to college to like be a writer. On the amazon site it says that her first story was about a kitten being chased by cat hunters and was disqualified for violence.
We see this theme clearly in Break, she’s not afraid to bring the reader up close and personal to witness this teen boys’s destruction.
Jonah is 17. He has a brother Jessie a year younger than him. Jessie has deadly food allergies. So much is off limets and just breathing them or touching a spec of it can cause a severe reaction. There were several really intense situation where spilled milk or some other seemingly harmless item sent Jessie to the ER.
Unfortunately rather than being vigilant about this serious medical condition their parents are too busy fighting. They got divorced and came back together but still aren’t in good terms to where they can actually focus on their children particularly a very sick child needing special care. So the care falls to Jonah. He knows how to medically check Jessie over constantly, when he should go to the hospital ETC. Jesie tries so hard to be healthy eating what he can, getting the vitamins that he can’t through powered shakes. But he’s trapped and unable to lead a normal life.
On top of this the parents have a new baby who is absolutely inconsable and cries 24/7.
So Jonah deals with the pressure of all this through wanting to break every bone in his body. He says he doesn’t do it as a form of self-injury. He believes that when you break a bone it grows back stronger. I’m not even sure if that’s even factually true. I’ve never broken a bone but all I know about it is how long it takes to heal and that you’re actually more vulnerable to break it again, or at the very least have arthritis.
But Jonah firmly believes that if you get stronger bones, a stronger body then that strength would feed into his family and make them stronger. It’s an offshoot of his feelings about having to be the rock for the family.
Of course he has to deal with others perspectives that become more and more concerned. After breaking like 24 bones in eight months it’s not accidental. Many people feel that Jonah is trying to “get even”” with Jessie. Like get attention that Jessie gets for being so sick. They say that his parents might be abusing him. Things come to a head and he’s hospitalized for evaluation.
This ends up being really stressful and chaotic for him. Rather then the hospital being a place where he can try and step back from the issues to get new perspectives it seems like his issues literally take over the hospital. Once people hear about why he does what he does unbelievably they start breaking bones too. It’s just scary like something out of a horror fantasy or something. Staff believe Jonah is dangerous to the other kids and is put in isolation. A hospital volunteer actually sneaks him out. Really?
The ending is weird. And there’s a lot left undone. It’s just weird the whole concept. I’ve only read about self-harm through cutting or burning breaking bones especially how detached he is planning these staged cciodents is so terrible it’s hard to take in at times. What’s more he has a friend Naomi who egs him on and videos this activity. It’s just not realistic in a lot of ways. However what saves this book is the emotional relationship between Jessie and Jonah. I would have loved for him to do something normal like get actual treatment in the hospital and not have this weird twist of others including the hospital volunteer breaking their bones to experience what he’s talking about! I would have liked to see the family step up.
Honestly just as outsiders find Jonah’s reasons difficult to grasp I as a reader do as well. I can’t exactly nail down why he does it, I often wonder if he even knows. He said it started with a car accident where he was the only one with broken bones. I wish he could have explored that trauma in therapy. The one psychologist he did go to outpatient he sort of connected with and let out his feelings crying. She then admitted him to this program where staff just didn’t get him and acted so clinically. And then he escaped and that was it for treatment. By the end of the book there’s healing between the two brothers but you’re still left wondering if he ever will actually stop this destruction or not. And I’m telling ya, I have no idea about this bones growing stronger thing. I say he’s gonna have a ton of arthritis.
I’d caution readers who might be triggered by the explicit violence here. And the weird twists and turns and that treatment is not effective and doesn’t make a lot of sense. But hey this girl wrote this in high school on an extremely complex mental health problem and put her own original spin on it. So I think she did amazing just for trying to write this. And it got an award so yeah. I recommend it but take in the points I’ve raised before reading. Certainly wouldn’t recommend for a mental health bibliotherapy group or if currently dealing with self-injury.
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