I Stop Somewhere by T. E. Carter

I’ve been wanting to write this review for a while but have found it as difficult to write as it was to read the book. This is one of the hardest books I’ve read in a while. But it’s also one of the most important YA books I think I’ve ever read.

The subject matter is incredibly hard to swallow, but that’s because we, as a society, strive so hard to shield ourselves from the truth that we leave important stones unturned. We let society go by without bringing horrid situations to light in fear of disturbing normalcy. I Stop Somewhere shows us that rape and abuse are so prevalent in society today that it is part of our normalcy whether we want to acknowledge it or not.

Caleb led me into the party. He’d invited me because he could. He’d kissed me because he could. Just like his dad, Caleb lived in a world of could and we drifted from room to room on the privilege of it.

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished. 

No one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

 The narrative is spectacular, two timelines crossing perfectly to reveal the circumstances leading to Ellie’s death alongside the investigation of her disappearance. Make no mistake, this is not an easy narrative to follow and the tragedy is present throughout the text. It is gripping and upsetting and infuriating and heart-breaking all at the same time. It took me five days to finish this book but I was determined to read it, to learn every detail of Ellie’s story, to understand the horror that she went through because it’s so honest and true and I hated it so much.

This is one of those texts that so expertly criticises our society’s views of women and girls and adolescent emotions and it is utterly infuriating to read it because it’s true. On the one hand, you have a group of teenage girls manipulated or forced into abusive relationships or situations, with completely different personalities and lifestyles. On the other, there is white male privilege, the overruling, overarching argument that trumps everything else.

It is so easy to pretend that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to girls because for centuries we have overlooked it, treated women like they are objects, toys, disposable, there for male entertainment and pleasure, and nothing else. This is not something that is just starting to happen. It’s just something that people are finally talking about. Parents ignore it because they can’t bear to think about their daughters being exposed to it. Kids are uneducated on the subject so the circumstances repeat time and time again…

“He hit you because he liked you.”

“I know you don’t know him but he’s family, give him a hug, sweetie, don’t be rude.”

From such a young age, we tell our daughters that men hit us because they like us, they’re mean because they want our attention; we tell them that it’s rude not to do what men want, that it’s rude not to give men our bodies even if it’s ‘just a hug’. T. E. Carter has written the novel that exposes this ridiculous sentiment of our society. It may seem harmless to tell your children these things, be them boys or girls, because let’s be honest, this is something that affects both sexes—it may seem harmless, but these are exactly the type of things that shape women.

These ideas implanted at such a young age mean it’s incredibly difficult for girls and women to recognise the signs of abuse in their own relationships, in their friends’ relationships. And it’s the acceptability of bullying girls for the way they look, the way their bodies develop at a young age, that makes abuse normal. The relationships between the sexes in this book are honest and devastating and relate entirely to the events leading to Ellie’s disappearance. There are so many lessons to be learned and taught from this book, so many things wrong with our societal and judicial systems.

So read this book. Please. Read it and understand it and find it difficult to digest. And then pass it on. Loan it to your friends and your family. Make everyone aware of our reality. It’s important. We’re afraid of disturbing normalcy but look at what our normalcy has become.

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