In Bruised by Sarah Skilton, Imogen is an incredibly successful Tae Kwon Do black belt. It's rare for someone her age to have already reached black belt status, but she has and is very proud of herself. She really wishes to be a role model for kids and show them they can do whatever they put their mind to and work really hard for.
When she witness the robbery of a diner -- and the eventual death of the man holding the place up -- Imogen becomes filled with guilt. She didn't do anything. Imogen, strong and capable of taking down any man, hid under a table in the diner, while the man robbed the cashier at gunpoint. She blames herself for his death and won't listen to anyone's reason as to why she's not at fault.
Bruised is really the story of healing. Imogen shouldn't feel guilty for protecting herself by staying quiet, but she does. She feels so guilty that she begins making choices that begin to harm herself further and through the book we are able to watch her finally turn it around for the better.
Skilton's writing pulled me right into the story and I found myself wanting to both cheer for Imogen and smack her. In order for the plot to progress as it did, she needed to be a difficult, hard-headed character, and she definitely was -- but, I ended up loving her for it.
I also really loved the inclusion of Tae Kwon Do as a major plot aspect. Never seen that before.
Operation Oleander by Valerie O. Patterson focuses on ninth-grader Jess, a girl who has spent every minute of her free time over the summer raising money for children in Afghanistan. Her father, along with many of her friends' parents, is deployed to Kabul and she feels like she's helping him while helping the kids at the orphanage. Raising money is her mission, despite her friends wanting her to also spend some time having fun. She knows that she can't rest.
When an explosion in Afghanistan near the orphanage kills her friend's parent, Jessica is taken over by guilt. She knows that her desire to help those kids is a good one and it makes her feel closer to her dad. But, her friend blames her for her mom's death. That's a hard one to swallow. Jess feels terrible.
Books about military kids and their families always tug at my heartstrings. I miss living on a base and having the community of people around that know exactly what it means to be in the military and everyone being in one place for the same reason. It's an important community to have. Books like this one are important for kids who have parents serving and I think Patterson did a really nice job expressing the emotions that so many of us go through when our family is overseas.
Jessica came off very young sounding to me -- not like a 14-year-old -- but other than that, I really thought the book did a solid job at getting a great message across, while still being fictional.
Thanks to both Abrams and Clarion Books for the review copies.