Bitter End by Jennifer Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lots of spoilers!
Jennifer Brown's Bitter End is a complete success at showcasing the mentality of a young woman who finds herself in an abusive situation without realizing when or how it happened. Alex falls for the new, goodlooking jock transfer from another highschool when he washes her with a zealous amount of boyfriend sweetness. But Cole soon turns into a monster, and it turns out he has been a monster for quite somewhile due to the awesome role model dad he has at home who keeps Cole's mother as an annoying pet he can control. Bitter End shows the ugly truth of an abusive relationship spiraling out of control and going way beyond a "bitter end."
Bitter End is very well written in regards to pacing of events and overall realism, but I found myself getting bored with some the scenes between Alex and her BFF's, Bethany and Zack. By bored I mean skimming through them really quickly because their relationship and behavior did not seem genuine. My opinion though...
I would have liked more realistic dialogue between them, and I would have liked some more intervention from her friends who knew her since childhood. They are too passive for Alex, and I know that sometimes people will not listen to their friends' advice or opinions, but so what? Get angry, shake some sense into her, don't just be all sad for her and all angry against the guy who beats up his girlfriend. If she doesn't listen after trying to repeatedly get her to see and admit the truth, then I guess there comes a time when you have to let her go. This does not happen in the book. I even could have done without Bethany in the picture. Zack would have been enough, as well as Georgia, the mother-figure she finds in one of her co-workers at The Bread Bowl. I also wanted a big emotional scene with her father.
What I do like...Alex is a very believable character. She knows the situation she is in but neither wants to be known as the victim or wants to be the victim. This is true not just for her realtionship with Cole but for her lost relationship with her mother who died in a car accident when Alex was a child. Although nothing pretty to read about, the abuse scenes are spectacular--specific, graphic, realistic. And Alex's reaction to these specific instances of abuse are spot on. Any reader can empathize with Alex, hurt with Alex, and understand why she repeatedly goes back to Cole. Any reader can also grasp her need to search for her mother and for closure in the mountains of Colorado. Cole even threatens to ruin this--he does not even want to share her with her mother's memory because this is a bond threatening his own power and control over her.
Sorry for all the spoilers here. And last, I will add this book to the "Books I Wished I Had Written."
“Just like that, my anger was shaken right out of me. Suddenly it didn’t seem like such a huge deal to be called a slut. Suddenly all that mattered was the ringing in my ears and the fact that my eye felt like jelly and my knees wanted to buckled right out from underneath me.
“Okay,” I cried, my voice rasping past his tight grip on my throat. I brought my hand to my face, because I couldn’t think of anything else to say or do other than cover and agree to whatever he said. Whatever it would take to make him stop. “Okay, okay, okay, okay, I’m sorry,” I cried, tears pouring out of my eye in rivers, even though I had it squeezed shut. My stomach lurched, and I had to clench my teeth to keep the vomit back.
He let go of my neck and I crumpled to the floor, holding my face and sobbing. Too afraid to run. Too surprised to stand. Too hurt to be brave or indignant or anything other than broken. “I’m sorry,” I whimpered, curling up over my knees and pressing my forehead into the carpet, willing my eye to stop watering. Willing my face and neck to stop hurting. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry…” (p. 238)
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