YA/Adult semi fiction
"Kat was a heavier sleeper and Dad knew this. He had spent a
long time on my side of the bed one night. That time it had hurt and
I held my stomach when he got up to walk away, afraid I would throw
up. He crept to the other end of the bed and sat down next to Kat."
There are some books that have me thinking that our age based
library book classification system leaves something to be desired. K.
L. Randis' Spilled Milk is one of these. YA covers a lot of maturity
territory between roughly middle school orientation and high school
graduation. At the lower end of the scale a lot of kids are far from
ready for the book. Many adults, especially those working in
education and social services, and college and graduate students
headed toward those fields, should be required to read it. Most of
them won't run into it in its current classification. But putting it
on adult shelves would deprive the older YA readers, including those
going through similar situations.
No easy answers, huh?
Brooke, Randis' protagonist, reaches a hard realization as a
teen. She's having supper with her boyfriend, Paul's, family for the
first time, amazed that they were actually conversing with each other
in a loving, caring way just like families she'd read about and seen
portrayed on tv. Suddenly Joseph, Paul's little brother, spills a
glass of milk. Instinctually she moves to protect him from his
father's anger...anger that never happens.
In that moment she learns that most families are not like hers.
"Suddenly it was clear.
Families didn't have to be perfect, but the fear and
manipulation that fueled my household was unconventional. Homes could
be safe places after all. I was in disbelief."
Brooke's family is about as far from normal or functional as one
can get. Her father is a sick, controlling man with anger management
issues and unnatural lusts. From Brooke's early childhood on, he
fondles her inappropriately and goes on to raping her. She's afraid
he'll start in on her little sister, Kat. She's also seen him beat
her brothers brutally. As much as she hates what he does to her, she
reasons that by staying and enduring she can protect her siblings.
Her mother is no help whatsoever. Crippled by a work accident and
addicted to pain pills, she is terrified of losing the man of the
house. At one point she tells Brooke they will leave. Then in the
next breath she's describing how they will be homeless and starving.
In one particularly charming incident, Brooke has a gun shoved in her
face. She has been selling her mother's extra Oxycontins illegally.
This is not a usual parental mandate for a high school kid. A
potential customer robs her. When she gets home from that very
frightening experience, Mommy Dearest's reaction:
"You let him get away with my pills? You got nothing? Not one
Then just as Brooke and her siblings are getting close to
leaving home, her mother is pregnant.
What makes Spilled Milk most scary is that, although it's
fiction, it's based on a true story.
I'd recommend this book to exceptionally mature YA readers and
most adult adults, especially parents and people in or going into
education, law, and social work.
On a personal note, UMaine hosted an excellent presentation by the
NAACP. Officers talked about the organization's history and answered
questions. It was a truly informative and inspiring talk.
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated in it.
Sent from my iPod