Annabelle needs to get away, she needs to run. So that’s what she does. She runs from Seattle, at first with no plan just a desperate need to run and put space between her and her thoughts, but soon, her run has an end point: Washington D.C. While on her run, she is met with people who know her, who support her, who are so proud of her for doing what she’s doing, but Annabelle can’t accept the love from strangers when she is dealing with her own guilt and shame. Despite everyone saying otherwise, Annabelle can’t help but feel like the reason she’s running, the reason for all her pain and torment, is her fault.
This book, this book… it’s going to hurt you. I mean this in a great way obviously, I loved this book, I think Deb Caletti did a fantastic job juggling quite a few different yet interwoven topics. That doesn’t change the fact that these topics are hard and painful and in some cases very personal. It’s kept a secret throughout the book so I will do it the respect of not sharing what it is, but I will say that it is a politically charged topic that deals with PTSD.
The exploration of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is slow and deliberate. While we are aware of several of the symptoms happening at once, overlapping each other and smothering Annabelle, we tackle them slowly. I think this is both smart writing wise but also smart from a therapy perspective. If you give someone too much to tackle too soon, you can end up overwhelming them even more. The hardest thing for many are the feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings exist despite logic and they permeate throughout the story and drive her moments of doubt, anger, and resistance. It’s why, even when you want her to keep going, want her to push, you can understand why she is paralyzed.
I read this book in one day. I couldn’t put it down, I was just too invested in Annabelle and her story. I was heartbroken for most of it, reading about someone so young in so much pain… it’s hard. I’m glad her story exists though, I’m so glad it exists. This is why topical, political books are important, they can change the minds of people by connecting to them through narrative. Maybe you think that you shouldn’t need a book with a fake person, that the real people involved should be enough, and I’ll agree with you. I do feel like that sometimes. I am also able to recognize the importance of reaching out in all forms in order to convey and emotionally driven message.
This book comes with a lot of trigger warnings, so please make sure you’re in a good place mentally before picking it up. I very very very much recommend you pick this up if you can. Each character, not just Annabelle, gives you a glimpse of what the ripple effect of tragedy is like and how one event can change everyone.