Book Riot recommended this novel via their YouTube channel several months ago and I ended up picking up my copy at the airport on the way to Cancún. I finished it within the week I spent on vacation last Thanksgiving with my parents. Yes, even while in Cancún, the novel grabbed my attention enough for me to make time to find out how it ends.
Where do I begin? I don’t want to say, “it’s sooooooo good,” and sound so basic, if you will, for lack of a better word, but that is one way to describe it. Now I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before and I haven’t searched my own blog to check, but thrillers are not my favorite thing to read or watch. Needless to say, I made an exception for this book. That black rose on the cover intrigued me, to say the least, in a way that I was drawn to the idea that pretty things like pretty girls have not just a layer of dark secrets, but a layer of ugly. This layer is hidden underneath, waiting to be pulled back. So you see, I had to turn the pages to find what I was looking for, especially when the back cover claimed this girl had the perfect life.
Spoiler alert: she did not. But she does break it down to you slowly what happened in her past, using flashbacks and jumping back and forth between the past and the present. When she gets to the “aha!” moment, you feel so bad for what happened to her, her secret layer, you wish no girl has to ever go through what she went through as a teen and you wonder if a girl like her is really lucky to be alive. But then again, if she had not survived, there’d be no girls out there who could lend a voice to all the other girls out there who experienced the same kind of horror.
Because you see, this book may have been fiction, and I have never met the author or was present in her life when she was younger, but there is some raw truth in here that if you have not gone through what she has gone through you would want to listen and reach out.
Show interest is what they said. But I would tell them there are certain moments in life you really wish you were inside a soundproof room so you could scream all your problems away. Or at least rid yourself of that nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach that seems to nag at you in the least convenient way possible at the most awkward moments in time. How do you do it?
There’s no way someone could see through to your thoughts. You have to express them in words, but what if there are no words to describe what you are going through? What if you must use dance or pictures, but you have none at hand and no footloose skills? Time. Someone would need to observe you when you don’t know they are watching. At the very least they would be able to deduce whether you have integrity or not. When you’re driving on the highway are you one of those who slows down as soon as a cop is driving by? Or do you follow the speed limit no matter what?
Don’t be too of anything. Too smart. Too skinny. Too boring. Too broken. We’re all broken though. Show me someone who’s not broken and I’ll show you someone who’s lying. Show interest is what they said. But I would tell them grab a parachute and just jump already.
Even the best doctor in the world doesn’t know you as well as you know you. A doctor has to ask you questions to get to the root of the problem if you have a health concern. And yeah, maybe you have no idea what’s wrong, but your doctor wasn’t there the night your father walked out on your mother, leaving a hole in your heart you will never be able to fill and a giant question mark in the pit of your stomach. Your doctor wasn’t there the night you got up to get some milk because you couldn’t sleep and then heard your mother weeping into her pillow. Don’t forget your doctor wasn’t there the time you slid down the slide backwards and landed on your neck. Or the time you stayed out all night driving around town just because you wanted to see what it was like at night. Your doctor wasn’t there when you got your first kiss at your sweet sixteen underneath the bleachers. Your doctor wasn’t there when you fell off the stage after tripping over your long dress. No, your doctor wasn’t there when you witnessed a boy getting beaten up by another boy for not liking girls the same way he does.
There are some things a doctor cannot explain or help you understand. There are some pains a doctor cannot treat. There are some moments in your life you will not be able to describe to your doctor unless they were there with you when it happened. The doctor just prescribes what you need based on what you tell him or her. It is up to you to take care of yourself. And sometimes that is the most confusing place to be.
More and more her thoughts grew, like an ulcer inside of a stomach. Then one day, the VCR in her brain ejected a novel.
The robins were everywhere. It was starting to look like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. They were searching for the unlucky worms kicked out of their apartments due to flooding.
Sometimes we have robins after us and we are the worms—no safe place to crawl when pushed to the brink of insanity. So we take the first step we have to because this step is the only way out of our current crazy situation. We are forced to take a chance on our lives. No one really knows what will happen, but those who are resilient will survive and even thrive.
Sometimes we are the robins and we are after the worms—taking advantage of new opportunities that pop up, even at the expense of someone else’s life path. So we find people when they are vulnerable and pounce when it’s the appropriate time to snatch away the future that was supposed to be theirs. Maybe at first this new future belongs to us and feels good, but not long after the guilt sinks in and you live in fear someone somewhere will do the same to you one day.
The million dollar question is, are you the robin or the worm?
Halfway through college I was Job. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want to wear my glasses in front of anyone. I didn’t want to speak to anyone. I didn’t want to wear colors, only black and white and gray. It’s funny how I dressed according to what I learned from watching “A Cinderella Story” and listening to the commentary because twirling around in my downward spiral is what I thought defined me in the moment so I thought I needed to “dress the part.” What I’m talking about is, in the commentary of that movie, she says Sam dressed in colors when she gained her confidence back, but in gray and blue when she became really insecure after being made fun of for who she was. So I started doing this when I felt really down on life.
Then you said you thought of me when we were discussing Job in class and I was like, “you knew me in college?!” But I quickly realized you were referring to something else about me that is related to the story of Job. I can’t remember it now and not being able to remember what exactly that was frustrates me. It’s not something I usually do—share something really personal about myself with someone I just met.
Whenever you share something really personal about yourself to someone, that person takes a part of you with them. At least it feels that way. If you never see them again, it’s like that piece of you goes with them and you’ll never be able to take it back, like a sent text message. If you do see them again, you know they hold onto a secret side of you that could be unleashed unintentionally to other people you may not want to know about it. And that’s dangerous to know.
I got a text from a girl friend asking me if I wanted “in” on going out to the bars. There was promise of green beers and other such St. Patrick Day’s things I can’t remember exactly now. I politely declined because it was a weeknight and I had to get up early for work tomorrow. She politely understood.
I don’t remember how long ago that was, but I remember a little of how I felt when I got that text, like it was so predictable she would invite me out. Like it suited her to be going out and it suited me to be staying in. I wasn’t always like that.
We had just finished a tournament and we were trying to find our way back to the van so we could get some fuel for our bodies. Somehow I had injured my foot so we were going kind of slow. All of a sudden we found ourselves in the middle of a parade of people wearing green. At the front of the line was this guy who wanted a light. He saw me and came up to me to ask for one. Being a non-smoker, I had to tell him, “no.” He looked disappointed with my response and the girl next to him didn’t look too thrilled he was talking to me. I was relieved though. That meant he had someone waiting for him, the type of commitment from a guy I was not looking for at the time. Afterwards, my teammate asked me if I knew “that guy.”
I don’t remember what street we were on, but I remember the smoker was wearing a green top hat. I wondered if he was really Irish because he didn’t look it to me. Looks can be deceiving though.
I just sat down and Emma White* said to the class, “How come none of the Asians are wearing green?” Then she glanced over at me in my green sweater and goes, “Good job, YuMin!” I felt good about myself, the way you instantly feel better when someone gives you a high five.
This happened in seventh grade and for some reason, every year on this day I think of it.
*name has been altered to protect identity