Today, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (so, maybe 8 p.m. if past history proves true), in expected temperatures of only 106 degrees (thank goodness it wasn’t last week’s 113!), our electric company is shutting off our power to do “repairs.” Because they couldn’t have done these, oh, three months ago when it wasn’t so hot, or wait another two months for it to be only 98…ish.
No, as usual, they think it’s smart to shut off power to an entire area of town populated by young families with babies and the elderly. Like my mom. And because of the lovely hours they’ve chosen (there’s no sarcasm in this post, can you tell? Ahem), getting a hotel room was tricky. See, the worst of those hours… during that 3-hour window when hotels don’t accept new guests.
Guess who had to rent a hotel room for two nights just so we could have a comfortable place for our family for eight…ish hours? Possibly twelve. Because the electrical geniuses who run our power company thought this was a good idea. Yay. Them.
So, at seven-thirty last night, I checked myself into this room (that doesn’t have the couch promised, mind you), and was grateful that I had a nice, thick book to read. Sure, I wanted to write, but first… escape.
What was I not thinking?
The book? A nice, fluffy little tome about human trafficking and abuse—horrible, horrible abuse. The title? Something I Am Not. And you know what? It fits the book just as much as the character of Billy. Because this isn’t just a YA book about tough topics. It’s so much more.
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Beware: This Book Has the Power to Crush Your Heart
I loved the character of Billy from the first page. This poor, flawed man-boy resisted every attempt to make him become what he did not want to become. He was every abused and broken person you’ve ever known, and yet he was himself, too. Uniquely him.
And despite wanting to devour every word of his story, I skimmed large sections of Something I Am Not.
It wasn’t the writing. Despite wanting to say there were more words than necessary to tell the story, I disagree with myself. Looking back now that I’m done, I realize my resistance to “all the words.” It’s what they conveyed.
With gentle delicacy that juxtaposes brutal abuse and boxing, of all things, Something I Am Not unfolds the story in such a way that you never doubt the horrors this boy goes through. And as much as you know them, you never see them. Cher Gatto keeps most of that off the page but never out of the forefront of your mind. It’s brilliant, beautiful writing.
And I hate it.
Not only that, but I should. The author wants me to. That’s the point of this book—to take your heart, pummel it until it’s left battered and bleeding on the mat, and then ask one question. “What are you going to do about it?”
Books like Something I Am Not? These are why I love Christian fiction. This is the point of fiction for me. They help me see what I know is there but can sanitize, gloss over, ignore. Books like this won’t allow that.
And this book is a perfect example of exemplary word choice. Not once… not once did the words feel sanitized or out of place. And yet, not a single “foul” word in the bunch. Instead, skillful use of words created a story that shows that foulness without resorting to lazy writing with “just” swearing to do the hard work.
And seriously, that is the only reason this book is getting five stars.
See, I liked the book. I think it’s an important book—a necessary book. But I didn’t love it. And that’s what it usually takes for me to punch it up to five. But what I did love was how this author took vile, nasty, horrible people and showed them for all their ugliness, and I didn’t once think, “well that got sanitized for CF.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful. I don’t want that sort of language in my fiction—Christian or secular. But for someone to do that so well… I think she’s earned that extra star. I’m grateful that I received a free review copy. Here’s my review. I hated that I needed to read it. I liked the story it told. I loved how she told it.
Recommended for people who can take the hard stuff or skim when it gets too difficult. Not recommended for the sensitive who are truly crushed by how vile humanity can be. Also not recommended for those who like to pretend the world is a shiny happy place. Can’t destroy the delusions, can we?