EVER SINCE by Alena Bruzas
I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and Libro.fm, online retailers that support independent booksellers. If you make a purchase by clicking through the links in this post, I will receive a commission. For more information, see my “About” page.
I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
Content warning from the publisher: Contains descriptions of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, suicidal ideation, and drug and alcohol use/abuse.
Ever since she was 11-years-old, Virginia has been searching for a safe haven, away from her belligerent father, her emotionally unavailable mother, and of course, Him, the man who once made her believe he was her friend before revealing himself to be a monster, a beast worthy of the darkest fairytales and myths. Of her four close friends in the neighborhood, Virginia most often seeks refuge with Poppy, but when Poppy unexpectedly leaves for the summer, Virginia is desperate for another ally. After years escaping traumatic memories through drugs and alcohol and accepting that her body will be used by boys for sex, Virginia is surprised when Poppy’s boyfriend Rumi takes an interest in her as a person and expresses disgust at the way another boy is using her. Virginia struggles to reconcile the way Rumi sees her with the way she’s always seen herself–as a bad person and a slut, a view that she feels is confirmed by her growing attraction to her best friend’s boyfriend. But when Virginia recognizes that Rumi’s 11-year old sister is being groomed by a predator, she finds the drive to dig past the myths she and others have built around her and find the strength to tell her true story so that she can save another little girl from having to live it.
Gorgeous poetic prose and embedded fairytales and myths carry readers through Virginia’s intense experience of childhood sexual assault and its aftermath. At times graphic and deeply disturbing, all of the assaults by the adult “Him” occurred in Virginia’s past, allowing Bruzas to show (realistically) how children often lack the power and agency to escape their abusers but also to give Virginia power and agency at the moment of this story so that she can rediscover her voice and a supportive community of peers and adults to help her find safety and heal. In this novel, storytelling is not only a catalyst for healing but a bridge of connection between isolated survivors which will no doubt reach readers as well. Bruzas concludes with an author’s note acknowledging her lived experience with CSA. An impactful read for fans of heavy YA/NA contemporary fiction.