Laurie B Levine GUEST POST Now I Know It’s Not My Fault

Now I Know It’s Not My Fault

I was inspired to write my debut young adult novel, “Now I Know It’s Not My Fault,” after a female teacher in the town I lived in was accused of sexually abusing several male high school students. There are some kinds abuse that seem to occur under the radar. The sexual abuse of a boy—or a girl, for that matter—by an adult woman is one. There isn’t much room in our cultural views of women to see them as potentially dangerous to children, especially in a sexual way.

For much of the twenty-five years I’ve been seeing clients as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve helped people understand and work through trauma, child sexual abuse, and domestic violence. I’ve also seen many people who come to therapy with signs and symptoms of childhood abuse without any significant traumatic event in their histories. Exploration of their early relationships with adults often reveals a relationship in which an adult has repeatedly crossed boundaries in ways that are sexualized. When most people think about child sexual abuse, they think about an adult engaging in direct sexual contact with a child. I wanted to tell a story about a subtle form of abuse called “sexualization,” which occurs under the radar, and to explore the idea that women can be abusers, too.

There are characteristics of this kind of abuse that also occur in other types of abuse, but in less overt ways. The process by which a dangerous adult lures a vulnerable kid into an abusive relationship is called “grooming.” I wanted to capture the essence of that kind of relationship, and the damage that it can do. Writing the story as a novel, rather than a clinical case study, gives the reader the experience being drawn to Paula, the abusive teacher. The reader experiences her the same way Alexandra, the fourteen-year-old main character, does. Paula is attractive, charming, and cool. She understands Alex’s vulnerabilities and emotional needs. In the beginning of the relationship, she does a good job of meeting those needs. Their relationship changes when Paula starts to use Alex to meet some of her own deep, unexpressed needs, and Alex gets hurt in the process.

Common questions that come up in situations like Alex’s are: “Why did Alex stay in the relationship?” or “Why didn’t she fight back?” The answer to both those questions is the same: it’s the “trauma bond.” A trauma bond is a way describe the deep, and sometimes lasting, connection a child has to her abuser. Paula creates painful, humiliating situations for Alex, then acts loving and forgiving. This cycle leaves Alex desperately needing Paula, as Paula is the only one who can diminish the very pain she’s created for Alex.

Now I Know It’s Not My Fault is for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the traumatic consequences of this type of abuse.


This book is on my TBR list. Just last Fall at KidLitCon in Wichita we talked about issues like this in YA books. Assault is not an easy topic to discuss so the more we know about it, the more we can be on the lookout to help kids.

Many thanks to my new bff Laurie for writing this timely novel. I also think I need to make abuse a topic for next year’s Diversity Reading Challenge. Go ahead and add it today to yours.

Diversity Reading Challenge

Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

There is much to like about this book.  I don’t want to give away anything but the man that Boy (a girl named Boy) marries is a light skinned African American man passing as white. Hard to believe but in 1940s America, this kinda thing was done. This book just wasn’t for me. There was so much to like but so much that made me shake my head. But if you persevere to the end you will get a very pleasant surprise twist, which they hinted at  and I didn’t want to believe it!

Read it for yourself and judge.  Qualifies for the Diversity Challenge!

Adult Fiction

What’s In My Ear: Room by Emma Donoghue

So. I’m currently reading/listening to

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma Donoghue

Don’t let the childish cover fool you!

This is not a kids’ book (although suitable for older teens). Here’s a blurb

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Wow.  I’m not sure if I can wait to finish it.

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Children

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth a ListenUp Audio Review #DiversityReadingChallenge

It’s no secret by now that I LOVE! They’ve made the past 6 months of my life immensely more readable. I’ve been able to double the number of books I’m reading because I get to listen to books in the car while I’m driving. It’s GREAT!

 Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth

 Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth

I love this book and it’s a shame that more books with kids of color on the cover don’t get the exposure they DESERVE. This title is AWESOME. There are so many things to love about this title. Jarrett’s mother is a foster mother and is constantly bringing abused and neglected children into their home. But when Kevon and his tiny little sister come into their home, things start to change rapidly. J & K are thrown together and are forced to get along.  It’s a rocky relationship but they both learn something.

The startling life of foster kids is presented in a way that readers can understand. Not everyone has a safe home environment and I think readers will be as sensitive to the abuse as Jarrett is and or they might learn to appreciate their own situation. Or maybe even reach out for help if they need it.

Don’t let the two kids of color on the cover dissuade you from picking this title up. It’s for everyone.  Especially great is the audio quality.  I’ll be the first to admit that if I don’t like the reader in an audio book my experience generally tanks. I loved the reader: John Clarence Stewart. He brought charisma and an authenticity to the African American male voice that is missing from kid lit.  I smiled the whole time I was listening to him.

Hey JCS, call me and leave a message. I wanna listen to it alot. alot alot. I like smiling. Smiling’s my favorite.


I can’t thank ListenUp Audiobooks enough for the chance to share this book with you!

If you’re keeping up with the #DiversityReadingChallenge, this book would fit right in!

Get 50% off your first 3 months at!

Young Adult

The Ford 99 Test with @eric_devine author of Press Play


Tomorrow I’ll post my review of Press Play by my new BFF Eric Devine. Today, however, I wanted to have a little fun and share the test that I gave to Eric. See, Eric is high school teacher so I thought he might be keen on TAKING  a test, rather than GIVING the tests. Naturally, he could not not say no to my incessant nagging charms and consented to take the Ford 99 Test.

I love the Ford 99 Test because it gives the author a chance to drill down on a particular issue in the story. Kind of like Inside the Actor’s Studio with what’s his name except I’m not what’s his name and the authors are not actors. But whatever, right?  It’s a chance to have an in depth discussion with the author which is always fun, right?

So. I asked Devine to open up Press Play to page 99 and share some behind the scenes action.  Here we go:

Page 99 in Press Play begins with this bit of narration from Greg Dunsmore, the protagonist:

“I lift my arms and Alva and Gilbey look at me like I’m a magician.”

Seems fairly innocuous, right? No, not even close.

Alva and Gilbey are Greg’s tormentors. They are the captains of the lacrosse team and are starting to wonder if Greg, who is known to secretly record people with his phone, has just done so while they preyed upon a freshman teammate.

They’re right, Greg has been, and for all the right reasons. During his self-imposed weight loss challenge and documentary (Greg tips the scale at 352 at the opening of the novel), Greg and his friend/personal trainer, Quinn, accidentally find the lacrosse team brutally hazing the underclassmen. Greg secretly recorded that incident, and has since recorded the subsequent events he’s had access to.

The problem is that the school’s principal is the team’s coach, and he seems, at minimum, complicit in the hazing. He is also well connected to the Superintendent. In fact, every outlet Greg can think of to turn to with his evidence is tainted with former players in a town devoted to its lacrosse team. Therefore, all he can do is get as much evidence as possible, and figure out the rest as he goes.

But, here, on page 99, the lax bros have spotted him, and they want the tool of Greg’s trade, his phone.

The page before has this bit of narration:

“And so I do what I have to in order to survive. I reach behind me and wedge my phone in between my ass cheeks. And then I clamp down. Hard. It seems as if all the squats have paid off, because it doesn’t slide at all.”

So, here Greg stands, having mystified the brutal youth for a moment, until they think it through.

“Alva pins me to the lockers and pats me down. He even lifts my belly to check the fold. Embarrassing, but thorough. He stops at my crotch and looks up. ‘Tell me you didn’t put it in there.’”

What ensues is a pivotal moment for Greg. In the past, he has protected himself with the films he creates, a veritable cocoon, because of the deception they weave. But he doesn’t have that choice now. He has to sacrifice his phone or himself. He has to decide how far he wants to take his investigation, because if Alva and Gilbey get his phone, the game is over. However, if he refuses to hand it over, then the pain has only just begun.

Toward the end of the page, Alva says to Greg, “That’s how this works, Dun. Hand it over now.”

Greg’s response: “And you know that will never fucking happen.” I look him straight in the eye, just in case it drives home the point of never.

And what follows is a terrible moment of pain and public humiliation. But Greg has remained true to himself. The question is whether that will be enough to carry him through the rest of the novel.

Guess you’ll have to read to find out 🙂

*                                    *                                         *                                             *                                                          *

As gross as it seems, stuffing the phone in his backside is a smart move for several reasons

  1. the lax bros won’t think to look there
  2. even if they figure out it’s there, who wants to touch something that’s in someone’s butt?
  3. the thought of being wrestled to the ground and having the phone forcibly removed is only equally as disgusting as the thought of actually doing the wrestling and sticking your hand in his butt to get the phone. And then back to #2.

Are ya ready to read my full review tomorrow?

yeah ya are.



Books Young Adult

All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry #ATTM

All the Truth That's in MeEvery once in a while you find a book that stays with you.  All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry is that book.  At the risk of giving a very bad description of the book, read what it says from the author’s blog.

Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

Pretty amazing right?

I can’t quite place the time and location of the setting, it feels like 18th century America. Sort of the time when Hester might have been living during the Scarlet Letter.  Certainly the character’s names allude to that time: Abijah Pratt, Goody Pruett, etc.  The two aspects of the book that amaze me are Judith’s strength of character: how she survives the constant onslaught of degradation at home and in town is remarkable. Also amazing are the depths of  depravity that people sink to.  I am reminded of a line in which our heroine says something like: Just because you think I’ve been used before doesn’t mean you can use me.  Here’s the phrase, beautifully put:

I’ll not be the pet of men who feel like touching something, anything.  I’ll not be thought easy to have for having been had before.

And that, my friends is the sign of a strong female character.  We need more of these.  Well done Julie!

Julie Berry

Here’s a pic of Julie and me. She’s totally trying to steal my drink.

Get this book right away for every young woman in your life.

It’s a life changer.



I give it four paws!

Unconventional Librarian 4paws