Sasha by Janelle Lee

Sasha by Janelle Lee
Publisher: Silver Stream Press
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Length: Full Length (268 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

The destruction of Sasha runs deep: hurt, betrayed and unloved. Sasha is in the ultimate fight for survival.

Sasha Phillips knows she is unfortunate because everyone tells her so. She is a misfit who has been lied to for her entire young life. Fearing the government more than her drunken mother, she keeps silent. After her mother inadvertently lets the secret out, Sasha plies her with more alcohol and the whole truth is revealed. Her mother isn’t her mother.

Sasha goes in search of a mother she never knew. Her search has her confronting her real father who wants nothing to do with her. He has a new family, complete with new daughter. Struggling with her growing anger and hate for him, she is determined to see him pay.

“Sasha was always on the outside looking in. Just once she wanted to be the person people looked at and envied.” Many readers could identify with this feeling and it isn’t uncommon, especially among those who are different for whatever reason, to want to belong. But hopefully there aren’t many who have been brutalized the way Sasha was. She has had to fend for herself and survive any way she could, living in absolute terror.

Janelle Lee has written an incredible story of abuse and neglect. Imagine being sold to a man at age eight so your mother could have a bottle of scotch. This is a harsh tale, which is why I rated it for ages 14+, but it is also a beautiful tale, a tale of what it means to be family, a tale of loss and then being found. It is not sugar-coated, and the ending promises hope without any platitudes that everything will be perfect. I thought that was very realistic and powerful.

The characters in the novel are drawn in depth. I really cared about Sasha from the very beginning. I wanted to fight for her, to denounce her teachers and principals who couldn’t see what was going on. I also cared about her father, and as things progressed, her step-mother and her half-sister. I feel that Lee creates a number of characters, even minor ones, that are believable and that the reader empathizes with. The pacing of the plot is excellent and I found that I was so caught up in Sasha’s story that I had to keep reading, finishing the book in one sitting.

Lee has tackled a difficult topic with grace and empathy. She draws her readers in so that we are able to understand not only Sasha’s plight but the plight of those around her. I highly recommend this book.

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