________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 10. . . .November 8, 2013

cover

Stained.

Cheryl Rainfield.
Boston, MA: Harcourt (Distributed in Canada by Thomas Allan & Son), 2013.
294 pp., hardcover, $20.99.
ISBN 978-0-547-94208-7.

Subject Headings:
Sexual abuse-Fiction.
Kidnapping-Fiction.
Survival-Fiction.
Body image-Fiction.
Beauty, Personal-Fiction.
Birthmarks-Fiction.
Psychopaths-Fiction.

Grades 8-12 / Ages 14-18.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4

   

excerpt:

And Iím still alive. Thatís what I have to focus on. Because I want to live. Even now I canít let myself give up. And thatís something I didnít know about myself before Ė that I have such dogged determination and strength. That I can be completely focused on a goal and work long past what I thought my endurance was, when I have to.

I was focused before Ė obsessed, really Ė with the appearance of perfection. But what did that ever bring me but pain? Pain, and not seeing people for who they really are. If I ever get out of here, Iíll look at people differently. Iíll look for their true selves beneath the mask of their bodies. Iíll look at soul.

I take another mouthful of water, then carefully screw the cap back on.

I think I was trying to punish myself by staring at all those perfect faces Punish myself for how I look, and for the way people treat me. But thatís stupid. If I ever get out of here, Iím going to stop comparing my face to othersí. Or at least Iím going to try to.

I want to get out of here so badly. I want to walk out the door with my head held high, because theyíve caught Brian, forced him to tell them where I am, and theyíve come to save me, the police and everyone I love.

 

Sarah Meadows, 17, has been bullied most of her life because she was born with a port wine stain covering half of her face. That pales in comparison to her ordeal when she is abducted on her way home from school, taken to a remote location, and sexually abused for months. Despite the efforts of her parents and the police, it is eventually up to Sarah to save herself and prove that her own strength and determination will get her to a safe place and, in the end, help her cope with everything she has had to endure.

     Readers will cheer for Sarah right from the beginning of the novel. She has no fear of helping others who are the targets of bullies, but, when it comes to her own face, she wants only to somehow have it surgically changed or else just hide it as much as possible. She is a hero to others, but her low self-esteem means that she seems unable to help herself overcome her bitterness and embarrassment over the birthmark she loathes. Her comic book alter ego, Diamond, has strength and power, but it is only when Sarah is put in a critical situation that she realizes that she, too, possesses these same qualities. She perseveres with her attempts to free herself and is able to dig deep and find appropriate self-talk to keep herself from completely yielding to her captor.

     The story is written in a way that moves from Sarah and how she is dealing with her abduction to focus on her family and her friend Nick and what they are doing to find and free her. Readers understand the emotions on both sides, from the lows of giving up any hope, to the grit and determination of staying positive despite the circumstances.

     Young adult readers who enjoy suspense, mystery and ďedge of your seatĒ thrillers will find it hard to put down this novel. An added twist is that readers know, almost from the beginning, who Sarahís captor is and will watch him interact both with his prisoner and then with her family. He is a chameleon: sadistic and cruel toward Sarah while, at the same time, offering support and sympathy to her parents. Rainfield allows Sarah to finally escape her prison, but even then the novel maintains its high level of suspense. It is only on the very last pages that readers, along with Sarah, can breathe a sigh of relief and know that she is finally, forever, safe.

     Rainfield looks at difficult themes in her novel: bullying, sexual abuse and violence. The writing is realistic and spares readers few of the horrific details. On the other hand, Rainfield is also caring and compassionate. She builds readersí sympathy for Sarah and her family as she allows readers to see beneath the surface and understand the terror they feel throughout the story.

     Stained is a coming-of-age novel in which Sarah develops emotionally, finding that deep inside she has the determination, resolve and tenacity it takes to fight her way out of a seemingly impossible situation. She learns many lessons about herself and the fact that she has, until now, been superficial in her views of beauty and popularity. She has learned to look more deeply and see what is hidden under the physical exterior. This young woman refuses to become a victim despite circumstances which would terrify anyone. Her strength and courage will have readers applauding this female character who represents anyone, male or female, who stands up for what she believes and fights for what is right. Thank you, Cheryl Rainfield, for a memorable character and a terrific novel!

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and teacher of high school English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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