My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Length: 320 pages
Release date: 27 February 2018
Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.
Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.
But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.
The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.
Frankly, this book is depressing as hell.
I feel enraged just thinking about it, and I finished it half a month ago. I Stop Somewhere is heartbreakingly tragic, and I had to put it down every couple minutes to take a quick breather or scream into the void before continuing.
This isn’t a Hulu Handmaid’s Tale story of empowerment and resistance. There are no happy endings here. In fact, there’s barely an ending–what little we’re left with is soundly unsatisfying. But that’s the point.
There may not be a light at the end of the tunnel, but there are wisps of colour so thin you don’t know if you imagined them. Not quite absolution, but a grain of hope, and the knowledge that someday in the distant future there might be a light after all.
Normally, I open with a quote that encapsulates the essence of the book I’m reviewing, something funny or thought-provoking or especially egregious if the book was bad. I’d have done the same with I Stop Somewhere, but there are simply too many haunting lines to pick one. So here are five of my favourites, and why they stand out:
“I died seeing beige. Beige and the boy I thought I loved.
Dying was my art. It was my achievement. I was a pointless girl in a pointless town with a pointless life. Dying was the point; it made me someone.”
Because that’s the first thing you and the rest of the world remember about Ellie Frias, whatever else she was.
“I can’t remember how long it’s been. I only remember after. A perpetual state of after.”
Because if there’s anything worse than eternal torment, it’s being trapped in between long enough to lose sight of who you are.
“I had to have a reason, because a reason was the closest thing there was to being special. A reason, even if it was blame, was something I owned, and ownership was better than just being.”
Because no one should have to feel alone to the point where blaming herself for being raped and murdered is preferable to the alternative.
“Maybe a lot of things make a girl, but I think being alive is the one I miss the most.”
Because to Ellie, this isn’t even faint gallows humour, it’s just the truth.
“I didn’t deserve this. Even the most confused and lost girl, even the most screwed up of us all, doesn’t deserve this. Death isn’t the consequence for making a mistake; it’s the punishment we force on girls because they couldn’t be good.
Only girls have to die for wanting.”
You have to read T.E. Carter’s Author’s Note, which is as much a part of her book as the fictional narrative. In this quote, it’s not really Ellie talking, or at least not only her. This is one of the moments where the author’s true voice is strongest, and that makes it all the more powerful.
Don’t pick up this book if you’re having a bad day. Spare yourself the pain. But absolutely do pick it up on a day when you’re ready for a tragic, introspective tale of a girl whose life was stolen too soon.
T.E. Carter’s writing is beautiful and soulful from beginning to end. It gets you. It’s moving enough that you might get angry, and you might want to fight. I particularly admire the boldness of writing from the perspective of a ghost, and the skill in doing it effectively. I wish we got more of this book, but like most messy real life stories, I Stop Somewhere has no resolution neatly wrapped in a box with a bow tie on top.
Against all her instincts, Ellie Frias’s story has become the story of many more girls, and that story isn’t over.
*Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK Children’s and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book! All opinions represented remain my own.*