Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Book Review & Event Invitation: So Much it Hurts

So Much it Hurts
Author: Monique Polak
Publication: 2013, Orca Book Publishers


Iris is an aspiring actress, so when Mick, a well-known visiting Aussie director, takes an interest in her, she's flattered. He's fourteen years older, attractive, smart, charming and sexy--in other words, nothing like her hapless ex-boyfriend, Tommy. But when Iris and Mick start a secret relationship, she soon witnesses Mick's darker side, and his temper frightens her. Before long, she becomes the target of his rage, but she makes endless excuses for him. Isolated and often in pain, Iris struggles to continue going to school, where she is preparing for her role as Ophelia. When her family and friends begin to realize that something is terribly wrong, Iris defends her man, but she also takes the first tentative steps toward self-preservation.


Note:  I received an ARC of this book from the publisher and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Monique Polak manages to take a difficult (and too often taboo) subject and makes it accessible and straightforward for young readers who might not otherwise consider themselves "readers". Teenagers who might not normally pick up a book and read for the fun of it might find themselves surprised with just how engaged they become with Iris and her descent into a dark, abusive relationship with an older man. 

The book is not perfect, but it is honest and that is what makes it so well done for the audience it was written for. "Young-adult" categorization aside, Iris, her state of mind and her struggles will resonate with female readers of all ages who have (like most of us, sadly) found themselves in a relationship that just "wasn't good" for them-- physically abusive or not. Yes, at times Iris borders on being so maddeningly naive that you just want to shake her, but the way she rationalizes with herself and makes excuses for Mick always manage to bring the reader back on her side with the bare, relatable truth behind her words.

"I wish Mick didn't have such an explosive temper. That's the right word for it: explosive. And it's hard to know what'll set him off. I know it comes with being passionate and creative. Mick gets upset because he cares so much-- too much, maybe. I could never be with someone who wasn't passionate and creative or who didn't care too much.... I know I'd be bored to death with anyone but Mick."

Iris and her need to and process of defending Mick and his actions to justify them to herself are just too familiar-- simply expressed or not. They're honest, real and raw. I know I've had similar conversations with myself in my own head at times while trying to rationalize someone else's behaviour that I logically and rationally know were "bad for me"-- the reasons we stay. I also know that I have heard too many friends have the same conversations out loud with me (and themselves). Polak has given a voice to Iris that, while still childish and frustrating at times, speaks to real and honest human experiences that are all to often dismissed through victim blaming, shaming or even acceptable as socially expected.

If you are in the Montreal area, you are invited to join Monique Polak and Orca Book Publishers at the launch of So Much It Hurts, tomorrow evening, Thursday, November 7th (details above). All ages are welcome and a portion of book sales will be donated to La rue des femmes, a Montreal centre for homeless women, many of whom have been affected by domestic violence. I hope to see you all there!

"...Because I lost myself, but now I am beginning to find myself again..."

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