Often there are those who wish that the pain on the inside can be seen on the outside. To be able to diminish the hold it has, others must see and acknowledge what you have gone through, and are going though. But while the thought sometimes lingers, is the reality as likely as it seems?
In All Things New by Lauren Miller she takes us into the life of seventeen-year-old Jessa Gray. Jessa was always a great student, but then life changed in unexpected ways. Her parents split up, her mom moved on, getting remarried and having another family. Her family decided that Jessa should stay with her mom, never consulting her about her own feelings. Suddenly life has darkened, her grades have dropped, and she begins having severe anxiety, barely able to leave her home. She finds it hard to be around others, as she no longer really understands who she is.
As her days drag on, she finally meets a young man who has no real expectations of her. He never delves into her problems and makes her feel almost whole. She begins to think life will be okay. Yet when finding that all he really was interested in was not something she was willing to give, she soon finds him with another girl while at party they had attended together. In her panic, she drives herself home, only to be hit at tremendous speed by another vehicle. Her injuries are so severe, her doctors are relieved that she survives the ordeal, but her anxiety comes to the fore. The excessive scarring on her face feels like it matches the pain within. Her father shows up to see her, and she is finally able to find a way to go and live with him, away from all that she has lost.
It is here in her new beginning that she finds another calling, one that teams her with others much like her, and her own pain and re-birth give her the advantage of seeing what they are feeling inside. As she focuses on freeing them, she finds a strength she has not known since she was a child. Can she hold on to this new her, or will it all come crumbling down at the first sign of pressure.
Miller gives us a novel that is hard to put down. You can feel the pain of her characters as they face the challenges of life and school as well as peer pressure and bullying. This is a work of fiction and yet you can feel the rawness of the characters, the pressure, often from themselves, and how destructive it can be. The insights are amazing and the story is wound with a bit of faith, one that makes you think about what truth is.
If you enjoy works that draw you in and make you think, this would be a great novel. Written for teen adults, this is a great read for those who just love an interesting story. Miller is making a name for herself in YA fiction.
This would be a fascinating book for a reading or discussion group, with a great deal of debate and questions to be answered.