Bruised (Sarah Skilton)

BruisedBruised by Sarah Skilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: "When Imogen, a sixteen-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do, freezes during a holdup at a local diner, the gunman is shot and killed by the police, and she blames herself for his death. Before the shooting, she believed that her black belt made her stronger than everyone else -- more responsible, more capable. But now her sense of self has been challenged and she must rebuild her life, a process that includes redefining her relationship with her family and navigating first love with the boy who was at the diner with her during the shootout."

I'm just going to get this out of the way to begin with and tell you that Bruised is an impressive debut novel. And I mean that in all possible good ways.

I was intrigued on page one. On page three (the end of the first chapter), I closed the book for a moment and braced myself. I'd picked up this book from the pile on my bed on a whim. I wasn't prepared--until I purposefully prepared myself--for how good it was going to be. The writing is sleek and rich, the characters compelling, the story absolutely gripping.

Maybe I'm the only person who's imagined this, but I've certainly wondered what I would do if I were put in a situation like an armed robbery. I have never been a black belt in anything (and probably never will be), so it's more than likely that I would duck and cover and hope only to get out alive. Here, Skilton paints such a rich picture that I really feel Imogen's struggle to come to grips with her inability to act. Imogen herself is an interesting and complex character, and even when I don't agree with the way she handles herself, I can understand why she makes the choices she does.

Bruised touches upon several subjects without getting weighed down by them. While the main storyline is about Imogen coming to terms with her part in an armed robbery, the book also hits issues of class, disability, and sexuality. In particular, I ADORED the fact that Skilton handles the issue of a girl's sexual activity while neither slut-shaming nor pretending that sex is automatically the biggest thing that can happen in a teenager's life.

There are books that have smooth writing, excellent lead characters, and compelling plots. But the thing that makes Bruised stand out the most from other books (and even other good books) is how developed the secondary characters are. Imogen's brother, her ex-best friend, even her school nemesis--each of them has depth, and a life outside the one that Imogen witnesses. I could easily imagine every one of them as the hero of their own story (and even carrying their own book).

In summation: Bruised is an impressive debut novel, perfect for fans of complex contemporary young adult fiction. I am VERY MUCH looking forward to what Skilton does next.

*I received an ARC of this title from the publisher.

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