This is a very intense and much needed book. Cutting and other forms of self harm is a very serious matter and it is good that books like this exist. In many cases, cutting is a coping mechanism in response to sexual abuse.
Kendra, 15 has been sexually abused for a period of over 10 years, starting when she was a toddler. She is not able to identify her molester. Fortunately she does tell her mother, who, in addition to being in denial over so many things does have the good sense to get Kendra into therapy. Kendra's therapist Carolyn, is a kind, perceptive woman who has firsthand knowledge of sexual abuse and is a stable and nurturing influence in Kendra's life. Kendra's mother would later feel threatened by Carolyn and would make unsuccessful attempts to drive a wedge between her and Kendra.
Meanwhile, Kendra is living a nightmare. She believes she is being stalked, but she isn't sure who the stalker is. She has chosen a new family for herself. Kendra is a gifted artist and her art teacher sees the subtext of Kendra's paintings and is very much a support system. Kendra's mother is friends with a very kind man named Sandy and his partner, both of whom are artists. Kendra's mother has followed her own artistic muse. She has passed her artistic talent on to Kendra and regularly critizes Kendra's work. Kendra feels she cannot confide in her and no longer shows her any of her artwork.
"Happiness is a warm gun/when I hold you in my arms and I feel my finger on your trigger/I know no one can do me no harm/because happiness is a warm gun." -- John Lennon, 1968
On a more alarming note, Kendra has been cutting herself regularly. She has been doing this as a way to symbolically and physically cut out pain. Ironically, John Lennon of "Happiness is a Warm Gun" fame would die from gunshot wounds inflicted by an overzealous lunatic. Kendra is slowly dying from the weapon that gives her momentary comfort, the warm blade in this instance.
Kendra's mother also cannot accept the fact that her daughter is gay. Kendra's first partner, Sarah, took out a restraining order against her prior to transferring schools. Sarah could not take on the enormity of Kendra's needs. Kendra's current partner Meghan, a girl with a very different, yet equally traumatic background literally takes Kendra under her wing. Both are familiar with traumatic sexual relationships, yet their experiences are vastly different.
It is Meghan awho comes through like the Calvary for Kendra time and again. The girls are required to take an art therapy class at their school under the aegis of their art teacher as well as an art therapist. They form a bond that seals their friendship.
Still, Kendra and Carolyn work hard to unmask the abuser. The abuser can best be described as "lying with his eyes while his hands remain busy overtime.." -- Beatles from "Happiness is a Warm Gun," 1968. Kendra's cutting has reached a critical point; she steals blades from the art supply room and lies about why she has them in the first place. Her arm is a cross-hatch of old cuts and supporating as well as healing new ones; she finds comfort in cutting out the trauma of her past by replacing it with something flowing, like red paint, something current that to her way of thinking doesn't include sex.
Carolyn soldiers on. She provides a safe place for Kendra and gives readers insight into Kendra's mind and behaviors; she ultimately helps Kendra to unmask her stalker/abuser.
Cheryl Rainfield is a brilliant writer who has shared an important story with important messages. Sexual abuse; support systems; self injurious behaviors and confronting the abuser. Suicide and sexuality are other major issues that she tackles brilliantly and realistically as well as homophobia and self acceptance. Each of these serious topics segue neatly into one another to make for a very explosive and vital story.
John Lennon's 1965 classic "Help!" and his 1968 classic "Happiness is a Warm Gun" could easily be the soundtrack of this book.