by Jennie Hansen
In my case, the test of a book's appeal can easily be determined by one look at its post-read appearance. I rarely have the time to sit down and do a straight read-through, (oh, the heaven of such an indulgence!) So if I really get into a story, I stuff the novel into my purse and drag it around everywhere I go, stealing reading moments anytime and any place possible.
My copy of "Shudder" is a a sad sight. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
The quality of the read is no surprise. Jennie Hansen is a prolific author whose experience shines in this novel. She grabs her readers' attention in paragraph one, dropping little breadcrumbs of back story until by page three, we're fully invested in the principal characters--best friends and roommates, Darcy and Clare. The tension and suspense ramp up as multiple story lines twist around a common theme--the danger encircling two women Darcy loves.
The timing between the arrival of Clare's wealthy, well-connected boyfriend--Blaine--and her persistent injuries, frightens Darcy, but despite her love for her childhood friend, Darcy moves out when love-hungry Clare succumbs to Blaine's insistence and allows him to move in to the spare room in the girls' apartment. As a student teacher hours from her home and family, Darcy's financial resources are limited. Fellow-teacher and running companion, David Schoenfeld provides a housing lead, and Darcy leaps at the opportunity to serve as a live-in companion for Karlene, a fifty-ish car accident victim. But Karlene insists that her accident was anything but accidental, and she fears her attacker is still out there, awaiting another opportunity to finish the job.
The two story lines contrast powerfully off of one another. Clare is a young, beautiful, and physically strong woman whose emotional neediness causes her to submit to Blaine's abuses in the name of love; while Karlene summons a broken body to vigilance, fighting to have someone believe her story and save her from her attacker. Entangled in each of their lives is Darcy, who finds her own life in jeopardy because of her love for both women. Jennie Hansen did such a fine job weaving multiple threats into the story that I became suspicious of every support character as well, and that's what led me to turn one more page each time I tried to lay the book down.
Sadly, we likely know a Clare or two. Perhaps that's the real reason "Shudder" hits home. It pulls no punches, showing how ugly and destructive abuse can be, while holding a mirror up to potential enablers who protect abusers out of some misconstrued sense of loyalty.
"Shudder" would make an important YW read as well. The coverage of Chris Brown's abuse of Rhianna showcased this issue as an important topic for vulnerable, insecure women of dating age. Though the topic is tough, Ms. Hansen balances the questionable moral choices made by some of her characters by openly emphasizing Church standards. It feels a bit instructional in places, but her care to avoid glamorizing or condoning such decisions is admirable and should put parents at ease. An added bonus is the lovely romance Jennie Hansen weaves a through the book, providing another contrasting storyline, balancing Clare's and Blaine's destructive relationship against the tender, respectful, supportive romance developing between Darcy and David.
The ending is suspenseful to the last page turn, and though bittersweet, the growth of the characters left me content and thoughtful well after the book was laid aside. "Shudder" is a satisfying, important read I can highly recommend to all readers, and one I feel mothers and daughters should read and discuss together. After reading "Shudder" I'm anxious to dig into other pieces from Jennie Hansen's body of work. The hardest part of that decision is choosing which piece from her twenty-one-book collection to begin with. Such a lovely dilemma!
"Shudder" is available wherever LDS books are sold.
(I recieved no compensation for this review, however the copy was provded to me at no charge.)