Judith D Collins
Too Close to Home
By: Susan Lewis
Publisher: Random House/Ballantine
Publication Date: 12/15/2015
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
For readers of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, and Elizabeth Flock comes a riveting and timely novel that delves into a modern family’s harrowing encounter with the complex world of cyberbullying. Jenna Moore finally feels that she and her family are exactly where they should be. Leaving busy London behind, they’ve moved to the beautiful, serene Welsh coast. There Jenna, her husband, Jack, and the couple’s four children have found a little slice of heaven. In the house of their dreams, Jenna and Jack are ramping up for the launch of their new publishing business, and the kids are happier than they’ve ever been, wandering the wild, grassy moors that meet white sand beaches and wide ocean. But a fissure cracks open. The once open and honest Jack suddenly seems to be keeping secrets, spinning intricate lies. And fifteen-year-old Paige has become withdrawn, isolating herself from her family and her new friends. Frightened of the darkness enveloping her family, Jenna struggles to hold her loved ones together. But a cruel disturbance has insinuated itself into her home, threatening to take away everything she holds dear. Praise for Susan Lewis “This emotionally charged story keeps you at the edge of your seat.”—RT Book Reviews, on Behind Closed Doors “Spellbinding . . . The atmosphere grows more intense with the turn of each page.”—The Free Lance–Star, on No Child of Mine
A special thank you to Random House/Ballantine and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Susan Lewis returns following Never Say Goodbye and No Place to Hide (recommend both), with TOO CLOSE TO HOME --- another emotional highly-charged novel addressing today’s contemporary and critical social issues facing relationships, kids, teens, and families. Bullying, victims, infidelity, fraud, abuse, and suicide (cyber, physically, and mentally) --crossing into mystery and psychological-suspense; a complex and riveting tale, appealing to the young adult audience, as well as parents and mature adults. After reading many reviews, my thoughts will be much more detailed than I had originally intended. I feel a strong need to speak out on behalf of the book and bullying. There is much depth to the novel, and do not want anyone to bypass the importance of the subject material, or the impact of this eye-opening novel, even though it is fiction, or due to some parts some may find disturbing. Susan addresses honestly, real major issues our children face daily. Also how adults become involved with their own problems, and may not always be paying attention. We need to be educated in order to help. Meet the Moore's: Jenna and Jack parents, fifteen-year-old daughter. Paige, and younger children Josh, age eight, and five-year-old twins. Paige was close to her stepfather, Jack. Her real father had abandoned them when Paige was barely a year old, and by the time Page was seven Jenna was married to Jack, and later her biological died in a rock-climbing accident, without knowing him. The family recently moved to Wales, after Jack had lost his job as the sales manager for a leading publisher. Their initial plan was for him to find another position in a similar field, but unfortunately it hadn’t work out that way. The industry and people were being laid off and the competition was fierce. When things were going his way, he was great; however, lately, not so much. When he announced they should relocate to Whales, Jenna decided to go along without questioning his motives. Jenna was a published writer and respected freelance editor. In combination with his publishing history they could work for themselves as an online publisher. She thought possibly having Jack’s mind on a new business would help his attitude. She was suffering from writer’s block. She was facing the prospect of having to repay her advance if she could not come up with a synopsis.... However, she was still at, Chapter One. Maybe a new business and a new start is just what Jack and the family needed. Shortly after moving, Jenna becomes more focused and worried about her husband than what is happening with her daughter, Paige. Trying to write a book, and launch a new business, and four children. A teen in a new school, is sometimes not a good combination. Many emotions, personalities, jealousy, and social media madness. Jenna realizes Paige is going through the typical teen stuff and aware they keep things secretive---she does seem a bit distracted. She does not mention any problems at school. Pretty soon the family begins to slowly IMPLODE. Paige is being bombarded with hate mail in an effort to make her feel small and disliked, someone is sending lots of spiteful message on Facebook, ridiculing her, doctoring explicit photographs to try and make it seem they are of her. It has turned to physical, as well. ,Paige wished they had never moved here. She could not bear her so called friends getting together and not including her. Everyone is making her feel like a waste of space, a whore, a loser and a piece of rubbish. They are relentless and her life is ruined. Someone is using a name of Julie (they are a coward, hiding behind another alias). Why? What is the motive? She has done none of these things they are saying. What kind of person does this? What abuse has the abuser suffered – turning them into a monster? Some children derive a certain amount of pleasure from cruelty, whether it is caused from their own environment or a psychological disorder. The texts, posts, and IM's were coming from loads of different people, numbers, name—she does not recognize. She would love to block them, but feels she needs to stay on top of it, so reads them, staying in constant stage of emotional stress. She now resents her step dad and mom, an affair, as they are so wrapped up—do they not realize she needs support and help? Plus, the younger siblings she needs to help with. In the meantime, Jack starts coming home late, secretive, distracted with phone calls, missing their son’s football games, and Jenna begins smelling perfume. She could not lose it all now .. the house of their dreams, the marriage, their family, and their new business. She thinks he is having an affair; however, he says not, but she does not trust him. She is far too busy worrying about her husband, and has no clue what her daughter is going through. With the recent death of Jenna's father, now her husband’s behavior…how will she deal with this crisis and raise four children? Just when she thinks it can’t get worse, he pulls another stunt, which leaves her world spinning—who is this man? Plus, she has to deal with the younger children, acting out not understanding their parents and their family. Now she has to seek an attorney. Where is the money? What happened to the savings, severance, her inheritance? Cheating, lying, stealing, fraud. How did her life turn into a nightmare? To make matters worse, Paige is dealing with her own personal hell-- now her own family is falling apart. The crude, vile comments—who is taking these photos and writing this stuff? Letters in her locker—they would never leave her alone. Another betrayal. Abandoned by her real father, now her stepfather. Paige starts directing her anger at her mom, and inward. She wonders why nothing ever goes right for her --then turns to suicide chat rooms to receive support from others in the same helpless situation. When Jenna discovers what her daughter has been going through, only when she goes missing, and did now show up for school ---she is frantic, and second guessing herself, how she did not know? She hopes it will not be too late. A race against time to find her daughter, suspense builds, -----leading to the shocking identity of the person doing the bullying, and why? INTENSE! Lewis does not spare any details with the disturbing, disgusting stalking, and vicious behavior of the teens. Emotions run high, with both Jenna and Paige with their own stresses and drama. They are not there for one another until later. The book offers insights of a mother with three younger children, a stressful career, a troubled marriage relationship and a teenager. This is a lot of tension. A wake up call to families, parents, and teens, to look for the warning signs. In addition, the book addresses school authorities -- of little help sometimes, and quick to judge as things are not always as they appear, before learning all the facts, or not made aware of the seriousness of the acts. Lives are on the line. The novel concentrates more on the bullying; the affair, is secondary. At the beginning of the book, Jenna was weak--not a strong personality—she seems very naïve and not abreast of their finances and decisions of the household. Jack very selfish (totally disliked this jerk)– not taking responsibility for his family. He is not a major character in the novel—Mother and daughter, take the limelight. As the story moves on, Jenna gets stronger, gets angry, fights back (I really starting liking her), by the end of the book-- coming to her daughter’s defense, like a mama bear before it is too late. In her personal and professional life. She wants the abuser to pay for their actions. You feel for Paige and keep wanting her to come forward instead of keeping her parents in the dark. Teen years are hard enough with all the hormones flying, between adolescent and adulthood, without home life issues and bullying. The book demonstrates how deadly this can turn, if not addressed. Serious actions when a person is trying to persuade another to end their life. Jealousy. Hacking. Manipulation. Fans of Heather Gudenkauf, Diane Chamberlain, Lisa Jewell, Liane Moriarty, Amy Hatvany, and Jodi Picoult will enjoy the complexities of modern families and social media. Lewis does a great job with the research. The only thing I would add which would have bumped up the rating another notch--a little more sarcastic humor (from Jenna) to balance out the heavy subject matter similar to Jo Jo Moyes and Paula Daly. However, I enjoyed--a nice wrap up. As always, enjoy Susan's books, and her writing, tackling difficult subjects and relationships. An ongoing theme of allowing yourself to become a victim. Both Paige and Jenna were both victims of their circumstances. Triumph over tragedy. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
“We can’t continue to be a victim, while continuing to allow it, due to fear. We have to report the seriousness of the issues, so it can be stopped by authorities.”
A thought-provoking question: How many kids (abusers) today may be suffering from their own bullying from their parents-- mental, physical, and sexual? They are loose cannons without the proper help from role models, society, educators, and social services. They are helpless victims themselves.Turning their anger outward.
I recently read a compelling memoir about another topic and the author’s words made a big impact. He expresses how critical fiction books are to the overall public audience, to create awareness of social and health issues. It may be too late for some; however, if we can help, or save one person, it is worth it. Preventive. Early Signs. Some people may not read non-fiction---so fiction books addressing these highly-charged topics, with a realistic spin-- puts a spark in your mind. It encourages, empowers, or educates you to become an advocate, join a fight, support a group, continue the research, or a journey. This holds true with Too Close To Home. These issues are closer to home than you may know. Join the fight against bullying. Recognize the signs: victim and the abuser. The problem also crosses over to adulthood Bullying: Research confirms what many public health practitioners, educators, parents, and children have long known—that bullying is a serious issue facing our nation. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Kids, parents, educators, community, teens, and friends need to speak out. UK: The author reiterates if you are a victim of bullying, or if you know someone who is to ask for help. Anti-bullying Kidscape 020 7730 3300 US & Canada: Bullying can affect you in many ways. You may lose sleep or feel sick. You may want to skip school. You may even be thinking about suicide. If you are feeling hopeless or helpless or know someone that is, please call the LIFELINE at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Stop Bullying
About the Author
I was born in 1956, in Bristol. My father was a Welsh miner, a poet, an engineer and a thinker. My mother was one of 13 children who, at 20, persuaded my father to spend his bonus on an engagement ring instead of a motorbike. We were a normal, happy, nuclear family, living in a spanking new council house on the outskirts of town – my mother’s pride and joy.
But we were going to do better, my mother had made up her mind about that. My father, an unabashed communist, was writing a book, I was signed up for ballet, elocution, piano and eventually a private boarding school, and my brother, (the real great love of my mother’s life) was going to succeed at everything he set his mind to. I was 9 and my brother 5 when my mother died of cancer. She was 33, my father was 37, and he never married again.
I went to the boarding school, a rogue little pupil in amongst all the posh girls, with their plummy voices, rich parents and exotic tales of faraway places. I yearned for my mother and father, but it was for the best, I was told. My father couldn’t bring me up on his own. However, I believed he could, and because no one would listen to my pleas for freedom, I took it upon myself to get expelled. It took a while, and I had rather a fabulous time achieving it, and by the time I was thirteen I was back in our little council house with my father and brother. Read More Twitter