Review // Surviving Haley by Brenda Baker

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Title // Surviving Haley
Author // Brenda Baker
Pages // 204 pages
Publisher // Pelican Book Group
Series // None
Release Date // November 2015
Find it on Goodreads and Amazon

Lauren Werthman struggles with guilt and depression. Even moving to another state and into a new home doesn’t help her overcome the life-altering aftermath of losing her sister.

Memories of the tragic accident reverberate through her life as her family tries to cope, but Lauren’s life spirals out of control. Her mother criticizes her choices every day, her father continues to work later and later, and people at her new school seem to know the family secret. Lauren binge-eats, has nightmares, and doubts the existence of a God Who didn’t intervene to prevent the senseless tragedy.

As Lauren’s family and friends work through the pain and guilt, will they find that even though the void will always remain, the power of forgiveness brings peace and hope and a bright future, or will Lauren forever be lost to the pain and guilt?

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A heartbreaking tale of loss within a family institution, and the resounding effects guilt, pain and loss has on said family. This is book that will make you cry. You’ll want to ask why bad things happened to Haley and her older sister. You’ll want answers – that the author only provides at the end.

You’ll be moved.

I didn’t have control over food, it had control over me.

Brenda Baker has captured the true element that is loss and placed it into a beautifully woven tale. The plot is bloody amazing! You instantly feel for Lauren and her family. After all, the loss that they encounter is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. I liked how Brenda Baker entwined the story with religion – a feat you do not tend to encounter in as many other Young Adult stories. I also found it great how she had not used the character of Jonah to push his beliefs upon Lauren or Tiffany, or the reader for the matter. The subtle awareness that is given to the Sikh faith is also a movement I welcome. It is not easy to talk about in today’s modern society, but Brenda Baker has clearly placed it into her story, giving the situation feels.

Don’t give other people the power to stop you from living your life.

Lauren as a character, is someone you understand for the get-go. She’s grieving and feels an irrevocable amount of guilt for the events that unfolded – the events that changed the Werthman’s lives forever. Her downward spiral into eating to feel better is something that teenagers relate to. Lauren is a character that many will adore. Jonah, the gentle preacher, is another character I adored. While I’m Catholic, I’m not strictly Catholic. It was refreshing to read about a character who held such faith in God. Especially, when said person turns out to be a male lead. His kind and caring nature, yet dark past gives his persona real edge and his understandings of Lauren’s struggles appear as genuine.

Thou shalt not lie. I was heading for Hell, express delivery.

Of course, Surviving Haley deals with the ever sensitive issue of death – and death of someone young can feel a lot harder to cope with. Yet the story also incorporates a lot of self harming, whether it is through eating, alcohol abuse, substance abuse or physical abuse. Brenda Baker cleverly highlights that here is a way to get better, by giving each troubled character their own means of escape. This is important, as it highlights to those readers who may be experiencing similar pain that there is a way out.

I knew I was dreaming, because Haley was there.

The cover accompanying the novel of Surviving Haley is gorgeous! I’m a firm believer that appearance on a book is everything. After all, on a shelf it has to stand out. The cover picture reminded me of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Where She Went. However, it has an individualistic spin – its just all around great. A big thing about Surviving Haley that I adored was the idea that people can redeem you. When Lauren helps out Tiffany, it saves her life. The same thing happens with Jonah, who shows Lauren the light and helps her to understand that people do need help sometimes.

“Tell me who you are,” he said, his breath warm against my face. “I want to know everything about you.”

Every once in a while, we need a book to cleanse the soul of our sadness. Surviving Haley is just the story for that. I highly recommend this book, and it earns a perfect 5 out of 5 snowflakes.

5 stars

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