Bruised by Tanya Boteju

The first thing Daya does when she wakes is smash her palm into her head board. She skateboards wearing no protective equipment. The more she falls, the bigger her bruises, the better. Hip bruises are the best. They are easy to hide, deep, and she can feel them often, all day, including walking, taking a seat, standing up again. In her night-time ritual she presses each of her bruises. The pain calms her.

Daya survived the car crash that killed her parents. She knows their deaths are her fault.

She sees a therapist, but is nowhere near able to talk about any of this. After a few sessions of near silence, her therapist gives Daya a notebook. She says that Daya doesn’t have to show the book to her or anyone. She encourages her to write what she “can’t say.”

A skateboarding friend, Fee, invites Daya to watch Roller Derby one evening. Daya is spellbound. It’s so rough - so many bruises – and it looks like so much fun. Joining a team and learning a new sport forces Daya to ask for help and to form new relationships. Each one nudges Daya toward communication.

What makes this book exceptionally strong is that Daya never really does talk much. She doesn’t suddenly put into words everything she’s been feeling - all her guilt, sadness, and anger. There is no golden revelation. Instead, a catastrophic mistake during a Roller Derby jam causes Daya to try to talk to her aunt and uncle. She actually tries hoping for rejection and more profound punishment than her bruising allows. She writes down in her notebook, “They died because of me.” She shows the words to her aunt and uncle and they do the rest. Later, she is able to take another step, telling her new girlfriend, Shanti about her bruising. Shanti does most of the talking. Together, Shanti and Daya put together two lists to show her therapist - lists that include admitting that she used to bruise herself.

What also makes this book exceptionally strong, is that all of these emotional breakthroughs, take place in the midst of non-stop Roller Derby action, drama and shenanigans and also as a pretty steamy relationship develops. Shanti is Daya’s first hook up that becomes more than a one-time encounter. Daya learns from Shanti that you can be strong and tough and also have an open your heart.

There are other bonus aspects of this book. Daya’s family are Sri Lankan Immigrants. There are several nonbinary characters – Fee is one – and Fee’s girlfriend is deaf and uses ASL. Also there are many LGBTQ characters including a senior citizen couple and most characters – counting these – are BIPOC. This is a fantastic book not the least because Roller Derby sounds awesome!

Young Adult Fiction pr5964148

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