I received a copy of this book for my stop on the blog tour at Donnie Darko Girl.
For the last seven years, Rowan has been blamed by her parents and sister for her baby brother's death in the novel A Life, Redefined. She was only ten years old at the time and what happened wasn't her fault. The way her family behaves towards her is sickening with their accusing stares and blaming her for everything that goes wrong with the family.
She lives like a shadow in her own house - doing her best to stay clear of her father. Her mother stays in bed all day and is developing health problems from lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet. Her sister is selfish and openly blames Rowan for everything that's gone wrong with their family. Her gran comes over every now and then to do things like cook and do the laundry since their mother never does.
I loved Rowan from the start and felt protective of her. Whatever she felt, I felt it, too. I was there with her every step of the way, knew her thoughts and feelings, and cheered her on to achieve her goals of graduating high school and attending college, leaving her family behind to live her life without the accusing stares.
It seemed like such a waste that seven years of her life were spent feeling like she's a murderer of her own baby brother. I can't imagine the anguish of not only grieving his death but also feeling like I was responsible. It's one thing to blame yourself, but when you're openly blamed by people who are supposed to love you, that takes it to another level.
Twists in the story brought more conflicts for the characters, leaving me to think, How much more can one family take? It became clear over time that Rowan's family was dysfunctional before the death of her baby brother, which was a bit disheartening to find out but also made a lot of sense and explained a lot. I was happy that Rowan's guidance counselor was so supportive of her, and she knew the family history so she knew how high the stakes are for Rowan to get out of the toxic living environment.
A Life, Redefined is a phenomenal novel with the kind of emotional intensity that will have you crying and grieving right along with Rowan. Five stars from me, and I wish I could give it more.