cover image When She Hollers

When She Hollers

Cynthia Voigt. Scholastic, $13.95 (177pp) ISBN 978-0-590-46714-8

Voigt's (see PW Interviews, p. 225) searing new novel plunges the reader headlong into the crisis facing its protagonist, a teenager named Tish who can no longer endure her stepfather's sexual abuse of her. As the novel begins, Tish disrupts the family breakfast by pointing a survival knife at Tonnie, the stepfather, and threatening to attack him if he comes near her ever again. In tackling the subject of abuse, Voigt takes no short cuts: Tish has tried reasonable measures before resorting to the knife; her unprotective mother is not unloving, only fatally vulnerable; no deus ex machina, no selflessly dedicated teacher or best friend arrives to save Tish. Instead, Voigt focuses on the rest of that single, brutal day. Tish goes to school, knife hidden in her Docs, staving off panic--until gym class, when she can no longer keep the knife a secret. Tish must--and does--find someone to help her, but she herself must determine her course of action. The tension intensifies almost unbearably; without sacrificing the tautness of her narrative, Voigt endows each character with a life that somehow goes on beyond the page. An exceptional offering. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)