Author: Claire Zorn
Genre: Young Adult, Teen, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
As many of the rating systems don't allow half stars I want to note that I've rounded up to 4 stars as I think Protected is a good young adult/teen book about grief and loss of a family member. This is a very quick read that doesn't disappoint.
When I was a child the book I first read about grief and lost was Tiger Eyes from Judy Blume. Protected reminded me a lot of that book as it takes a difficult topic and breaks it down to just what our lead gal thinking and feeling. That's it. No fancy philosophy or over-the-top statements (no John Green here!). Our lead gal has complex thoughts of course that are scattered; but by having the story from her internal monologue Claire Zorn allows the reader to immediately connect.
Zorn has done a terrific job of immediately getting across to the readers that we are leading with a typical high school setting. Whether it be the typical popular 'clone' girl or the cute new boy in class, Zorn has laid out personalities that are slightly cliche but have their own nuances and feel like real people. Things like even the crappiest bully of all having moments of sympathy (just like in real life) or the best of intentions boy making a huge emotional mistake. These types of moments are very genuine and help remind us all that no one person is all good or all bad. We just are who we are as we try to exist in society.
One thing I think is critical in contemporary teen novels is atmosphere. It's important to have the reader feel the anxiety, distress, grief, longing, excitement, etc. of a teen. Those of us (like myself) who were teens sometime ago can easily forget what it's like to feel like a teenager (I'm 35 now) and I think Zorn does a good job of connecting the reader to what our lead gal is feeling. This is also obviously critical in a story about the loss of a family member.
During one scene, in which a backpack is 'stolen', I felt like a teen once again. The passive way that Zorn describes the bullying that happens to our lead gal is superb. I can honestly say that something very similar to the 'backpack incident' happened to me in high school and I felt like I was back while I read Zorn's words. It's difficult to really portray bullying in a way that makes you understand that the person being bullied knows what should or shouldn't happen and what they should or shouldn't do but that they are terrified to do anything for fear of further retribution. Zorn really captured this in a realistic and genuine way. This scene is easily the best bullying scene I've read in a contemporary book in a long time. That may be because it's so close to my own experience; but I believe it's because it's so well written.
I would happily purchase this book for anyone experiencing grief of a family member or someone close to them; be they an adult or child. The way that our lead gal is affected by those around her is important for everyone to remember when dealing with others grief and even for dealing with our own. Certainly any parent can gather some tips on what not to do from Mom and Dad at points; and also maybe what might connect with a teen. Not everyone experiences grief the same way (and I think that is portrayed well in Protected) The different kinds of grief portrayed in Protected are honest, well crafted, thought-out and impactful. I'm glad to have read Protected and look forward to suggesting it alongside Tiger Eyes (which is dated by technology). They are both solid contemporary teen resources on grief that are easy to read but still moving and impactful.
Please note I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.