Read this if you’re in the mood for: realistic contemporary YA, tough issues, character-driven novel, unlikeable protagonist
Summary: Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman, EVERY LAST PROMISE is a provocative and emotional novel about a girl who must decide between keeping quiet and speaking up after witnessing a classmate's sexual assault.
Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn't supposed to. But she hasn't told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night—about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer.
Now Kayla's coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything—and everyone—she ever cared about.
Read this if you like:
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
Though EVERY LAST PROMISE isn't from the perspective of a victim of sexual assault, it has a lot of similar themes regarding rape culture and how severe bullying can cause someone to keep quiet about a horrific event and allow the perpetrator to walk free.
ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers
Released the same month as EVERY LAST PROMISE, this book delves into rape culture and bullying, but like SPEAK, it's from the POV of the victim.
The Rec: This is a dark, messy, and complicated book filled with a lot of imperfect people. It's an examination of rape culture, focusing on how a small-town mentality can crush the truth about a rape from coming out. This is the first novel I've read that is from the POV of the close friend of a victim of sexual assault — a witness who hasn't come forward.
That sentence alone could make you want to grab a pitchfork, because ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS WAS ASSAULTED AND YOU HAVEN'T STEPPED UP WITH EVIDENCE, YOU HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE PERSON. But I have to give credit to Halbrook, because Kayla isn't a horrible person, and due to her involvement that night, someone died, and she has to live with the guilt. She's already being ostracized and viciously bullied, called "Killer Kayla," and is desperate to escape her nightmares and reclaim a tiny shred of normalcy in her once-idyllic life.
Telling the whole story would permanently shatter everything Kayla holds dear, and she tries to tell herself that, since the victim didn't come forward, maybe she doesn't want Kayla to, either. Like I said, messy. And it gets messier as Kayla starts to wonder if anyone else knows or suspects the truth about that night.
EVERY LAST PROMISE is about choices, and it examines the factors that could make a person hesitate to do the right thing. As much as we'd all like to believe we'd act honorably in a tough situation, that's not always the case.
The Caveat: Some readers will hate Kayla for her silence and indecision because the right thing to do is so clear, but I love that Halbrook sympathetically portrays her character, cowardice and all. I really hesitated including "unlikeable protagonist" in the description at the top, because I didn't dislike Kayla, but I know some people will (though it shouldn't stop them from appreciating the book).
You should read this because: Halbrook is examining the effects of rape culture on witnesses, bystanders, and the community — how and why otherwise-good people make cowardly, selfish choices. It's a story worth reading.
Recommendation by: Donna