Release Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: YA Non Fiction
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Trigger Warnings: As a book about the #meToo movement, this deals with themes from catcalling or verbal abuse to rape and incest and everything in between. So, please take care and decide if you are in the right headspace to handle this book.
I’ve read quite a few books in past couple months that dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace and the rise of the #meToo movement. So, when I saw the announcement of this book in which many YA authors are sharing their own stories and letting young women know that they aren’t alone, I was very excited to read this book. And I really am honored to be a part of this blog tour.
This is a painful and difficult read, partly because of the experiences of the authors and how they are still common after all these years, partly also because they brought up many of my own memories which I may have tried to forget. It’s also a very diverse collection of experiences and each author talks about their own way of dealing with their trauma, and that’s definitely an important message for young women that there is no single right way to react or respond.
It took me a while to read it completely because I could only handle it in small doses, but nevertheless, it’s a very important book and I would love to give this to any young woman I know. But I also think it’s important for adult readers like me to read because we all have had these experiences and it’s good to know we are not alone.
I’m not going to rate any of the individual stories, just share my thoughts on each of them below:
It’s our Secret by Patty Blount
As a survivor of child molestation, the author asks a very timely question – when her parents asked her to keep it a secret about what happened to her, were they sparing her the ordeal of being dismissed, or were they just sparing themselves?
Wishing on Silver Dollars by Jennifer Brown
This was painful to read because it’s so relatable and common. The author delves into all the ways girls are sexualized since puberty (which is worse for the curvy girls) and how we are so used to verbal comments and leering and groping that by the time we are ready to start our careers, we just consider this harassment part of our lives. But what hit me most was the author talking about how we feel shame for being harassed when it’s the other person’s fault. This is definitely a lesson that young woman needs to be told – it’s not your fault.
This is How it Ends by Tiffany Brownlee
As a young black girl with a sheltered upbringing, the author experienced both racial and sexual harassment and I really felt for her because she too concluded at that young age that it must be her fault. But as an educator currently, she emphasizes that such harassing conduct arises from ignorance or lack of empathy, and it’s necessary to teach kids to respect themselves and others, and exercise self-control.
Sugar, Spice and Not so Nice by Jess Capelle
The author’s harassment experiences and the way they are dismissed by the adults through the years are all too familiar, and she stresses that despite being taught from childhood that we girls should keep quiet and not make waves and just be nice, we really shouldn’t do that. We have a voice and we should use it to stand up for ourselves and not let anyone get away with harassing us.
Bus Stop Witchcraft by Kenna Clifford
As a young bisexual woman, the author talks about being a bit luckier to be able to grow up in the generation where #meToo movement is prominent and atleast some women are able to speak about their experiences. And she also talks about the need to speak our stories and make our voices heard.
Young but Not Powerless by Eva Darrows
The author talks about her experiences with harassment in school from teachers and how much worse it is than if the perpetrators were boys her own age, because these teachers had power over the students. And her mentioning that many girls knew about it and just warned younger girls to be safe, rather than reporting the issues just underlines the harsh reality that sometimes it’s easier to keep ourselves safe than try to get a harasser punished.
It Was Me Too by Dana L. Davis
As a survivor of childhood sexual assault, the author talks about how she internalized the shame that it was all her fault, and how it completely changed her as a person well into adulthood, how she learnt to just be aloof and hide and never put herself in a vulnerable position. This is another reality for so many women and it was heartbreaking to read about.
Anything but Ordinary by Ronni Davis
The author talks about the shame in wondering what she might have done and how her not acting her “color” had contributed to her being assaulted, and later on feeling anger and shame for all the instances when she didn’t speak up. There is also the feeling that she can’t use #meToo because what happened to her wasn’t too bad. But ultimately it’s about the fact that every single instance matters and we are not alone.
Not that Kind of Girl by Natasha Deen
The author talks about boundaries and emotional violence in her teenage years, and how traumatic it can feel when the whole school judges you for something you haven’t done. But she is also very graceful in her message that sometimes restraint is important, we should speak up for ourselves but never say anything in anger that we wouldn’t say in normal situations.
How do I look ? By Nicolas DiDomizio
As a young gay man in the closet, the author talks about how his shame about his body and weight made him accept the things that were done to him even when he knew they were wrong. And he makes a great point that self worth doesn’t and shouldn’t depend on how you look and I think it’s something we can all keep in mind.
Gray Lines by Namina Forna
As an African immigrant and also a child survivor of war, the author talks about not understanding the concept of personal space and just not making a fuss when a teacher violated it because she didn’t want to be a problem. But I’m glad that she was quick to recognize grooming and make herself safe after that, so I completely agree with her message that make a fuss and say no whenever anyone disrespects your personal boundaries, and do whatever you need to keep yourself safe.
No, Not Me! By Jenna Glass
This was definitely an eye opening read because the author talks about how we normalize so many harassing behaviors like flashing or groping or unwanted touching, never realizing that these are also forms of sexual assault. She talks about the importance of talking about these issues and not letting anyone get away with these kinds of actions without consequences.
Before Starbucks or Cell Phones by Janet Gurtler
The author’s experience was tough to read about, but I was also glad that she had atleast one teacher who listened. But the common theme of shame still comes through, with young girls always wondering if they did something that made the boys or men behave so badly. And I think that’s why the author’s message is important that we shouldn’t keep these things to ourselves, we should talk to and support each other, so that we may one day get to a world where a girl can say it has never happened to me.
The One we don’t Talk about by Teri Hall
This was absolutely horrific to read about and I don’t have words to describe the strength it must have taken for the author as a young girl to finally tell someone about all the abuse that was happening in her house. As the author says, believe in yourself and never let your abuser convince you that you don’t matter because you do.
A Long Overdue Confession by Ellen Hopkins
This is mostly the author introspecting her decisions when she was eighteen to have an affair with a married man and how she was taken advantage of due to her naïveté. She also wants to share the story to prevent if possible other younger girls from succumbing to older men’s attention and flattery, particularly those girls who already have body image issues.
Bathsheba by Mackenzi Lee
Through the Bible story of David and Bathsheba, the author tries to make the point that despite what we’ve been told since childhood, we are not responsible for making men comfortable or for their violent actions; none of our dressing or talking or anything is a reason for men to violate us and we should always remember that.
Burn by Saundra Mitchell
The author lists instances after instances where she was violated but couldn’t do anything because she felt trapped but her realization after she turned seventeen is something we can all hope for – to start believing in ourselves and finding our voice and never stopping ourselves from expressing our anger.
Just Smile by Ali Novak
The author’s story highlights the fact that even if we haven’t been physically assaulted, words flung against us can cause equal emotional trauma, and that’s why we should use our own words to tell our stories and never minimize what we’ve been through.
Boys Will be Boys By Eve Porinchak
Another experience where the boys’ actions are blamed on the girl’s clothes, but I was very glad to know the author had a supportive family and learnt to stand up for herself at a very young age. We all definitely need that conviction.
There is Strength in our Voices by Cheryl Rainfield
I can’t even begin to understand the strength it must have taken for the author to run away and survive her whole childhood where she was part of a cult and her own family raped and tortured her, but I tip my hat off to her for finding the resilience and the queer community that helped her. And that’s why she insists that it’s important to listen and talk to other survivors, so that we may help others while also helping ourselves and not feeling we’re alone in our ordeal.
Pretty Enough by Beth Revis
This is a story of the author’s realization that how wrong it was of her to internalize the feelings that only beautiful girls got harassed and because she wasn’t, it meant she wasn’t worth it. She talks about how harmful this divide is and basing self worth on looks is, and asks us all to understand that there is only one side – all of us women who have to stick up for each other and not let anyone else make us feel powerless with their words or actions.
My Oklahoma History by Andrea L. Rogers
As a Cherokee citizen from Oklahoma, the author uses her tribe’s history as a parallel to how indigenous women are treated – both have a right to their sovereignty but it’s always threatened. And she makes a wonderful point that women don’t need to forgive anyone for the purpose of moving on – forgiveness can be a consideration if someone is making amends but it means nothing if the violator has no regrets.
Class Valedictorian by Lulabel Seitz
As a young Asian woman who was assaulted by a rich white classmate in high school, the author talks about the ways in which she was silenced and disbelieved by those in power because they didn’t want to discomfort the perpetrator. When she says that money and holding onto old white power structures matter more, I don’t see anything wrong about it because that’s still the world we live in. But I admire her for speaking up even when she was forced not to, and trying to keep doing it for other people even at such a young age.
No Right Way to be Wronged by Mischa Thrace
This is a different take on all the above experiences but it’s not wrong in anyway. The author talks about how no one is owed our secrets or the details of what happened to us, and it’s totally our choice. It’s ok to not want to be a spokesperson for the cause or tweet about our issues. After her own assault, the author found it easier to deal with it by expressing her anger through learning Muay Thai and just like her, everyone has the right to find their own way of dealing with the trauma, even if it is silence.
Notes on Girlhood by Amy Zhang
The author talks about all the overwhelming feelings that one is bombarded with after a sexual assault happens, because we aren’t sure how to process the trauma; and navigating it becomes a big part of our life. She talks about being fortunate enough to have a friend group as well as a therapist who helped her untangle all her feelings and feel like herself again a little bit, and that it’s enough for now.
We are giving away two copies of YOU TOO?, signed by each author. Entries are automatically entered with a donation to RAINN (the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization) on our YOUTOO Fundraising Page.
About the Editor
Janet Gurtler’s young adult books have been chosen for the JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION and as BEST BOOKS FOR TEENS from the Canadian Children’s Book Center. Janet lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband, son, a chubby black Chihuahua named Bruce and a Golden Retriever named Betty White.
Connect With Janet