“There’s that nursery rhyme. You know it? All about what makes a girl. We’re sugar and spice and everything nice, but that sounds like a cookie recipe. It doesn’t sound like the composition of a person.”
This book hit me like a ton of bricks. I Stop Somewhere is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. I’m actually struggling to come up with the title of another book that’s just as powerful as this one, so it might actually be the most powerful book I’ve ever read.
Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished. Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper. But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her. The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve read a YA book that is written in such a distinct style as I Stop Somewhere. Not to mention the writing is SO strong. It’s SO well written, it blew me away. It’s hard to believe this is the author’s debut novel. I actually found myself stopping after certain paragraphs saying, “Damn. That’s powerful.” It’s definitely not the first YA book to touch on the ugly parts of teenage girldom, let alone the first book at how hard it is to be a girl. But I Stop Somewhere is just written so naturally that I believe anyone could pick up this book and understand the bullshit that our society forces females to go through. This book has been promoted as tackling rape culture, misogyny, privilege, class and wealth and it’s definitely about all of those things – there is absolutely no question. There’s also no question that there have been and will be a lot more of books about those things given the rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. But I Stop Somewhere especially stands out, in my opinion, as the intricate portrait of a girl’s mind. The book moves between the past and present, with Ellie telling the story in both tenses. She is not perfect, and at times the story asks the reader to question whether or not Ellie is actually a victim – and that’s what I Stop Somewhere is truly about when it comes down to it. It’s about how our society, still unfortunately very male-dominated, decides for girls and women whether or not they were violated. It’s not up to the girls. Some are not believed, but even those who are believed are forced to plead their case as to why they believe or think why they were violated. We can’t just take their word for it. It’s truly, inexplicably awful, but oh so important to remember, and I Stop Somewhere does a remarkable job at it.
Ellie is a flawed character and narrator, but that’s what makes her perfect. It is her perspective and recounting of events, a female one, that we need to hear, because (at the risk of sounding too much like a social justice warrior) men are not trustworthy. They just aren’t. Men aren’t raised in the same world as women. Through Ellie, the author looks at a number of things, bigger than rape culture and misogyny: she explores the way society treats girls and puts their personality and lifestyle on trial in rape cases. She explores how easily we dismiss their bodies as things to be taken, cast aside, or consumed as desired. Just as in some old nursery rhyme, it seems as though women were historically designed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice,” and as objects for men. Wasn’t it Simone de Beauvoir who said, many years ago, in her book The Second Sex that what are women but an object of desire? I know we cast away certain feminist approaches that deal with these issues too harshly or “the wrong way” but these issues are reality. They are. Really and truly. And if you can’t bring even part of yourself to understand that, you’re probably a man.
I Stop Somewhere is not to be missed. Raw, emotional, powerful, important, and real. Please go read it, and don’t skip the author’s note at the end. Highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend. 5/5 stars.