Title: When You Know What I Know
Author: Sonja K. Solter
Genre: Middle Grade/Novels in Verse
Number of Pages: 224
When You Know What I Know is a sensitively written story about a difficult subject, and chronicles a girl’s slow road to healing after she’s betrayed by someone she trusts. At first when Tori tells her mother that her uncle touched her inappropriately, her mother doesn’t believe her. She writes it off as the uncle ‘just messing around’ and Tori misinterpreting it. However, Tori’s mother soon realizes that she’s made a terrible mistake and that Tori was telling the truth, and she tries to help her cope with the emotional fallout of the uncle’s abuse.
At first Tori is ashamed and doesn’t want anybody to know what happened, which causes a rift between her and her best friend because of the friend’s confusion at being ignored. To make things worse, Tori’s grandmother takes her uncle’s side and her father uses the incident as an opportunity to try to get custody of her. Luckily with the support of her loved ones and her own personal strength, Tori is able to gradually begin to heal.
The subject matter of When You Know What I Know is disturbing, but it’s handled in a tactful and non-graphic way. The book’s real strength is in it’s subtlety, people aren’t good all the time and Uncle Andy isn’t presented as an obvious creeper and monster. He seems like an ordinary guy, like a lot of pedophiles in real life probably do. Tori loves him and trusts him and that’s what makes what he does so damaging, and it’s not helped by the initial disbelief of people who should protect her.
The trauma Tori goes through seemed thoroughly believable to me (even though, thank God, I’ve never gone through an experience like the one she does) as well as her physical symptoms of depression and anxiety and her withdrawal from things she used to care about. I did find myself wondering about why the author didn’t seem to see anything wrong with Tori’s mom just failing to tell her estranged ex-husband about the abuse.
I mean sure, he’s a deadbeat but he is her father and I felt he had a right to know when it happened. I didn’t think Tori’s father’s anger about not being told was unreasonable, even though he seemed like a jerk in general. Middle graders who read this book should maybe have an adult to talk it through with them because it might be emotionally overwhelming for some, but this was definitely one of the better books written in verse I’ve read in a while.
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