M. Sindy Felin’s National Book Award finalist is in paperback for the first time. Karina has plenty to worry about on the last day of seventh grade: finding three Ds and a C on her report card again, getting laughed at by everyone again, being sent to the principal—again. But she’s too busy dodging the fists of her stepfather and looking out for her sisters to deal with school. This is the story of a young girl coming of age amidst the violent waters that run just beneath the surface of suburbia—a story that has the courage to ask: How far will you go to protect the ones you love?
Beginning with the chilling statement, The best way to avoid being picked on by high school bullies is to kill someone, first-time author Felin draws readers into the chaotic, often violent world of a Haitian-American girl's coming-of-age in upstate New York during the 1980s. Karina, the 14-year-old narrator, expresses her feelings of isolation at school, where she is often taunted, and explains why her situation is even less bearable at home. There, she and her seven siblings and cousins live in constant fear of being beaten by the Daddy, her too-fat-for-his-pants stepfather. After one of his beat-ups nearly takes the life of Karina's older sister, Karina knows that someone should contact the authorities. But getting the police involved could do as much harm as good: Karina's cousins illegal aliens might get sent back to Haiti and her mother might have to go on welfare. Not only does Karina keep silent about her stepfather's actions but she even takes the blame for her sister's injuries. Candid first-person narrative brings to life the terror, anxiety and pain Karina is forced to endure throughout her family's ordeal, as well as the joy she experiences when she eventually finds a confidante with whom she can share her secret. Despite its disturbing imagery, the book carries a strong message about the complexities of abuse and why victims are not always willing to take a stand. Teens will keep pages turning to learn how and under what circumstances Karina takes her revenge. Ages 12-up.