The Moment

The Moment - T.C. Anderson, Zoe Michalak A one-line blurb. That doesn't really say much. Or mean much. So you trust other readers when they say 'Read it'. You start it like any other book. You sneak a few pages at a time at work, at lunch, during break time, on the commute. The strange prose throws you. Did she say that? Or did she think that? It's slow going. You flip back and forth, re-reading and double-checking. Who is 'You' now? Who is 'She' now? A fifth of the way in, you're confused and annoyed. You consider giving up. But something about the writing calls to you. It feels raw. It feels real. It feels, period. So you drop everything, and start over. This time, you give the book the full attention it deserves. What you get is the rawest, most visceral experience you've ever had with a book. You've never gotten inside a character's head and heart as you have Jess and Mia. You become them. It is at once terrifying as it is wondrous.

That pretty much sums up my experience with the book. Jess is a victim of terrible abuse. That's the basic premise. But the book is so, so much more. It is a story of survival, of the fragility and resilience of the human spirit, of familial relationships, of loyalty and friendship, but most of all it's a story of the power of true love.

Every single theme I mentioned above is treated with sensitivity, nuance and care. The author is either a very seasoned writer, an uncanny observer of the human condition or has some personal experience in the victim's struggle. (e.g. the utter truth of Jessie's observations on deprivation hints of the latter). The book is longer than the usual lesfic because it takes its time to deal with all the possible issues that arise from Jessie's travails. No stone is left unturned. Yet nothing feels repetitive. Normally, plots dealing with PTSD and recovery tend to get stuck in emotional or psychological limbo. But not here. The plot moves along briskly yet nothing feels rushed. Every obstacle that comes along is fully explored, digested and dealt with in a realistic, practical fashion--but of course, only after agonizing emotional rollercoasters. Some plot devices are a little too convenient, such as the wealth and power of Mia's parents, but that may have to do with the fact that the book started life as a Rizzoli and Isles fanfic, e.g. Jessie = Jane; Mia = Maura; It may also explain other things: Jessie's unusual fascination with policemen/women and her deep voice (the Angie Harmon signature growl) ;)

I did a review a few books back about how a book with a similar-sounding title did family relationships so well. It doesn't hold a candle to this book. Every single relationship here--between Jessie and Mia, between Jessie/Mia and their parents, friends, teachers, and even the household help --every one of them--is so well developed and fleshed out. These supporting characters are imbued with the same emotional depth and nuance as the two main characters. A piercing look, a raised brow, a turn of phrase, a single hand gesture, a grounding touch to the back, a gentle caress of the hair--words, gestures, facial expressions--the author uses all of these to draw her characters--and the effect is so vivid and eloquent she never needs to tell you much about them at all. That's powerful writing.

The book is not an easy read. And it's not just the revolting subject matter (though nothing is truly explicit and the most apalling are just recollections). I had some minor irritation with the second person POV. It takes some extra work, for me at least. And that is my main problem early on with the book, I spent time consciously processing the words and tracking who was talking (they sound rather alike) that I had trouble getting 'into the zone'--something that I've never had a problem with in other books. Also, I thought the leads sounded more like they were tweens rather than teens. If the book hadn't mentioned that they're 16, I would have pictured them as 13 yr olds going on 14. :) The author also uses some unusual formatting conventions. There is not a single quotation mark in the book. Dialogue is italicized. Some chapters are entirely in small-caps, as when the POV character is in a funk. Some chapters have no comma and period separators for clauses and sentences! These are all deliberate formatting choices that reflect the character's mood, and I'm generally fine with them. But they slowed down my reading.

Overall, I'd still highly recommend this book. It's the best and most authentic in-character experience you're ever gonna get in lesfic.

4.75 stars