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Book Review: Until it Hurts to Stop by Jennifer R. Hubbard

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BOOK REVIEW CONTAINS A SPOILER.  I CAN’T DISCUSS WHY EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK AND WHAT MAKES IT A GREAT BOOK WITHOUT REVEALING THE SPOILER.  IT IS NOT, I THINK, A SURPRISING SPOILER, BUT IT IS A SPOILER NONE THE LESS.  PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that when people start talking about romance I ask time and time again: Where are the books where a boy and a girl are friends and slowly, sweetly realize one day that they are in love?  THIS.  This is that book.  For that fact alone this book gets ALL THE STARS.

 

Until It Hurts to Stop by Jennifer R. Hubbard takes an interesting look at bullying through the eyes of Maggie.  Maggie was bullied relentlessly in middle school by Raleigh Barringer.  Although Raleigh moves away, the after effects still haunt Maggie in the ways she sees herself and in the way she is always on guard, waiting for some secret attack.  And then, the worst thing ever happens: Raleigh moves back.

Maggie has two best friends: Nick and Sylvie.  Although Maggie isn’t always a great friend to Sylvie (she often becomes engrossed in her own problems and doesn’t recognize things going on in Sylvie’s life), this is on the whole a good look at friendships of various sorts.

So, here are a few things I loved about Until it Hurts to Stop:

1)  The relationship between Nick and Maggie.  They are great friends and when that friendship is strained, they really try and find ways to work through it.  It is such a fantastic relationship, loved it.

2) Maggie is haunted and struggles with a lot of self-esteem issues, but she is in many ways authentically herself and is not your typical YA novel girl.  She is not fashion oriented, she is not a Queen Bee or a Wannabe, and – my favorite – she is very outdoorsy and into things like hiking.  A girl who hikes – this makes me happy in the way it represents a different (and under-represented) teen girl.

3) At some point before we ever meet Sylvia, she has already wrestled with her sexuality and is very comfortably out and in a committed relationship with another girl which the people in her life are very accepting of.  There is no angst, no wrestling, no hand wringing.  Just a gay girl at peace with her sexuality.

4) This is truly an interesting perspective on bullying because no bullying happens in the book, but the effects of it are very clearly and very emotionally depicted.

5) This is really a clean, straightforward read.  It’s a book you can put into the hands of any patron and not have to worry about a parent coming back to you and challenging the book.  I know that I often have parents that want “clean” reads and this fits the bill.  There is an instance where Maggie wonders if Nick has given his virginity to the girl he is dating, but it is not graphic in any way.

I thought the book was kind of a slow start (but then I read a lot of dystopian, thrillers, etc. and they always have the big open), but once you get into the rhythm of the story I really connected with the characters and was rooting for Maggie and Nick.  It’s almost an updated take on Anne of Green Gables in pacing and its look at friendships, although Maggie lacks Anne’s confidence throughout most of the book.  Definitely recommended, this is a slow but beautiful unfolding of a young girl learning to love herself and the life she is living despite the heartache of the past.  Pair this with Guitar Notes by Mary Amato and The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski for a list of clean, sweet contemporary looks at love.  Many people will look at this as a contemporary tale about bullying, but I view it more as a moving coming of age love story for a teen that is haunted by the bullying of her past.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

Until it Stops to Hurt by Jennifer R. Hubbard.  Viking press, September 2013.  ISBN: 978-0-670-7852909