As an adoptee, I’m always looking for stories that reflect my experience growing up and those of my friends. Those stories didn’t exist for us back then. But as Young Adult lit continues to thrive and explore diverse childhood stories, we’re starting to see them more. I’ve even written about the ways these stories having been healing, even when they dig into grim and painful territory.
Nikki Barthelmess’ debut novel, The Quiet You Carry, is a beautiful, wildly devastating read about a foster teen navigating abuse and toxic families. So I’m thrilled that Barthelmess, a former foster teen herself, is returning to Victoria’s story in the sequel, Quiet No More.
Here’s the sequel’s description from the publisher:
College freshman Victoria Parker is trying to move on with her life after surviving sexual assault by her father and six months in foster care. She’s focusing on the positives—attending college, living on her own, repairing old relationships and making new ones, and getting involved with an abuse survivors activist group on campus. But everything’s thrown into disarray when a strange woman shows up, claiming to be Victoria’s aunt and asking Victoria to lie about what happened to her.
With her father’s sentencing in a few months, she’s nervous about having to share the truth of what happened with a judge. She’s not even sure if she has the strength to go through with it. But when her fellow club members begin pressuring her to speak out, Victoria has to decide how to share her story while remaining true to herself.
This novel has skyrocketed to the top of my most anticipated reads list! Barthelmess always dives into challenging topics with lyrical grace in her prose, and I look forward to the inevitable big cry this book is going to elicit.
Flux will release Quiet No More on October 13th, and we’re excited to reveal the cover and an exclusive excerpt below! You can pre-order the novel here.
Cover design by Sarah Taplin
The wind blows a piece of my fiery hair into my face. I spit it out as I head toward the grassy area in front of Truckee Meadows Community College. The sun glitters over the still-snow-dotted Sierra Nevada Mountains off in the distance. Sure, it’s not the quad at UNR, where Jess and I used to plan on hanging out in between classes. But it’ll do. I pull my legs out in front of me, sitting on the grass. Stare at the kids walking around. Some are sitting under a tree nearby, laughing together like they’ve been friends for years. Maybe they have been. My phone buzzes in my pocket—Kale texting back—and I smile as I reply with several heart faced emojis. I sigh at the now familiar pang in my gut. I miss him. Sitting outside texting Kale for the few minutes between class and the SASAH meeting has become a Tuesday ritual for me.
I found the group on the school’s website when I was looking for clubs to join. A way to get involved. Maybe meet some new people. The old Victoria, who I was last year when I was trying to hide from everything that happened with Dad, would have never joined a club, any club, especially not one that focuses on preventing sexual assault.
I breathe deeply. That’s not the only reason why I joined the club. Sure, I wanted to make friends, but there’s more to it than that. I want to help others from becoming victims—no, survivors—of the kind of abuse I went through. I want to do something positive to make what happened to me mean something. To show myself that what Dad did didn’t break me.
Because I won’t let it.
A laugh trills behind me, a girl catching a frisbee before one of her friends wraps their arms around her and takes her down. I swallow. This year isn’t going to be like last year. Pushing people away, keeping secrets, it only hurt me.
And my stepsister, Sarah.
There are other Sarahs out there, other people who have been hurt, who will get hurt. That’s why I go to the meetings, even if it’s hard being in a room full of people who constantly talk about assault and how to prevent it. Ripping the Band-Aid off every time I hear the word victim or survivor or perpetrator. But I keep going.
Sarah and I generally avoid talking about my dad since he plead guilty to battery with the intent to commit sexual assault on a minor, on both of us, his daughter and stepdaughter. He beat his wife, too, and Tiffany ended up pressing charges. But we don’t ever hear her talk about it. The DA’s office gave him the plea deal for a lesser charge (intent, rather than admitting to having sexually assaulting Sarah and me), since they didn’t want to drag out the case and we didn’t have any proof anyway. He says, she says, kind of thing. This way, he’ll for sure get jail time. Five years to life with the possibility of parole. He could have gone free if it had gone to trial.
Still, five years to life is a big range. Sentencing doesn’t happen for a couple of months and that’s when Sarah and I will have our chance to give victim impact statements, in front of the judge, to see if what we say will affect sentencing.
I pull out my notebook and look at what I have so far.
Victim Impact Statement, it reads.
My dad hurt me, and now he’s in jail. I’m glad he’s there so he can’t hurt my stepsister anymore, but
I never finished the sentence. I can’t bear to write what I was thinking when I wrote it. To finish the thought, but I don’t want to hurt him.
I resist the urge to crumple the piece of paper. I won’t go back to where I was last year, trying to protect my father. All it did was cause pain, and not just to myself, but to Sarah, too.
I try to force the thought from my mind. The date of the hearing hasn’t been set yet. It could be months away. I have time.