Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BLOG TOUR: Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell + GUEST POST

Title: Etched on Me
Author: Jenn Crowell
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: February 4/2014
Adquired: Print copy provided by publisher
Goodreads: ADD

On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls’ prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism...until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital.

Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story—until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.


Hey every book I read from now on! Yeah, you! Do me a favour and sport completely tricky, beautifully elegant front covers, and then shock the HELL out of me once I open you. Okay? Alright, good. Now that that's settled, let me to describe to you the wild ride that was Etched on Me. I feel like I should be making a video review for this, there is so much emotion I want to convey, that I feel like the use of writing as a medium just won't cut it this time. Etched on Me was that first SLAP of cold in the face, when you open your door to -35 degree weather (thanks Toronto). I was split open, and completely at the mercy of what this narrative was telling me. I have felt for characters before, and I will again, but right now, it's just me, and the lingering presence of Lesley Holloway.

She's escaped. That's where we find her. On a park bench, contemplating her next move. She's taken the ultimate step. She's freed herself from a HORRENDOUS reality that NO child should ever be subjected to: sexual abuse from a parent. I had to take pause, at the beginning, at the middle, and even at the end of this book to realize the magnitude of the situation. To stop myself from putting the book down due to feelings of nausea, of actual, PHYSICAL distress. The book isn't completely graphic in it's descriptions, but from the little that was described, to the rest left horribly to the imagination, I was RUINED. I sympathized and empathized and cried raw, real tears for Lesley Holloway. For the reality of SO many girls like her around the world. I couldn't stand it, but I also couldn't stop reading. Etched on Me was an extremely powerful book of survival, and as Lesley grew stronger, I grew stronger with her.

Lesley finds a herself immersed in a HERD of support very early on in the book, so in that sense, I wasn't pushed completely to the edge. The people surrounding her-her new found family-were characters that were easy to fall in love with. Every person that showed a single glance of compassion was impossible to not attach myself to. At maybe another point in my life, I would have complained that Lesley got everything sorted out way too easily to be deemed realistic, but I didn't care now, I wanted the entire WORLD on her side. I grew to appreciate her mother figure, Gloria, with a fierceness that made me, in turn, appreciate Jenn Crowell's FANTASTIC writing ability. She wasn't going to just let readers stand outside the window and look in, NO, we were going to be front row, centre, in the direct line of the blood, and sweat, and SO many tears. Nothing else needed to be happening but the path to recovery that Lesley was on. At times, I found myself wishing she would have had a confrontation with her father, a real breakdown with her mother, but in the end, I was glad neither existed.

My only qualm: I'm still finding it hard to come to terms with the (obvious now, because I checked), fact that the legal age in UK for many things is 16. Personally, it was hard to solidify that fact in my head. There are so many reasons why that would be a horrid idea in America/Canada. From my experience, many 16-year-olds are still quite immature, and should not be making life-affirming decisions (I apologize if that offends anyone, but that's my opinion). Now, in that sense, it was hard to picture Lesley and Clare as being that young. For many of their intimate scenes, it was written in a way that had me placing them in MUCH older bracket: 21-30. It just wasn't realistic for me.

Etched on Me is not a book for the faint of heart, nor a reader that's looking for something to glaze through. I am still an entire heap of emotion, my heart still breaking and melding, and when it all stops, this book with still be ingrained in my being for a long, long time to come.
Recommended for Fans of: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, mental illness in fiction, highly controversial issues, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flyyn, Web of Angels by Lillian Nattel, Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge, We Are Water by Wally Lamb, Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald.


Read to find out the true story, and inspiration, for Jenn's fantastic novel!

Many people have asked me whether Etched On Me is a fictionalized memoir, or at very least a partial reflection of my own personal experiences. My answer to that question would be that I share enough in common with Lesley to connect deeply with her and bring a strong sense of realism to her story, but thankfully have never gone through her more harrowing ordeals. (I know what it’s like to check yourself into a psychiatric hospital, for instance, but have never faced a custody battle.)

A mother who did, though, served as the real inspiration behind Etched On Me. Fran Lyon was a 22-year-old pregnant woman who made headlines in the UK back in 2007, when British social services drew up a plan to take her unborn daughter into foster care at birth. Their reasoning behind this extreme decision was that Fran would be a risk to her child simply because she had been hospitalized for self-harming as a teenager after being raped.

Watching her TV appearances, I was struck by how level-headed and articulate this lovely young woman was. She’d been candid about her history, shown sympathy for the difficult dilemmas social workers face, and even offered to go on a mother-baby unit for observation after the birth – and yet she was being denied even a chance to prove herself.

As a recovered self-harmer and new mother myself, I was so shocked and moved by Fran’s plight that I decided to write a similar fictionalized account. Fran ended up relocating to Sweden while still pregnant, but I knew that not every young mother-to-be in that situation would be able to make such a move. And so I had to ask myself the excruciating question of: What might happen to someone forced to fight that battle all the way to the bitter end? Would her love for her child and her conviction that she deserved to be a parent carry her through, or would the trauma and despair of losing custody of her newborn, even temporarily, pull her under?


Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Jenn Crowell found herself the subject of international media attention (including a New York Times photographer documenting her high school graduation) when she signed a two-book contract with Putnam in the spring of 1996, a few weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday.

Her first novel, Necessary Madness, was released to wide critical acclaim the following year, with publicity tours of the US, UK, Italy, and Australia. Following her college graduation (sans NYT), Crowell published Letting the Body Lead in 2002. She then ventured into screenwriting, joining a select group of young independent filmmakers as a 2003 IFP Market Emerging Narrative nominee (for her screenplay adaptation of Necessary Madness) and a 2004 Berlin Film Festival Talent Campus Fellow.

Never one to work by a traditional timetable, she earned her MFA in 2011, fifteen years after signing that first contract. She now lives near Portland, Oregon with her husband, young daughter, and two spoiled longhaired dachshunds. Her latest novel, Etched On Me, was published by Washington Square Press in February 2014.

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Thank-you to Valerie from Simon & Schuster for allowing me to participate in this tour, and sending me a print copy to review!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your beautiful review and for hosting me, Reeka!


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