Title: The Pain Eater
Author: Beth Goobie
Genre: YA Contemporary, rape, bullying
Published: September 13th, 2016
Source: Received copy in exchange for honest review
My rating: 5 stars
I tend to read certain types of what many people may call "trigger" subject stories. These are the types of things that totally cause me to get emotional, this book definitely made me tear up. This topic, rape, is one that definitely is a personal one, because of my own experiences. While not the same as my experience, anything along that lines is something I feel the need to read. Anyway, this is a book that I feel was a very well written book, as well as having a great way to get across its message. I also loved the idea of what the title actually means.
The main character is Maddy. Towards the end of the last school year, Maddy was raped by three boys from her school. Two other boys were present, one that held her down, and one that kept watch for the others. All of them had masks on, because they'd gotten them at the play. Maddy really only knew who one was because she'd heard the voice or a name said, and recognized it. The others she slowly figured out as school started up the next year. Especially when she was in English class with two of the boys.
The English teacher has decided to have the class write a story, each student writing one chapter that would tie into the story started by whoever was the first person to write. In this case, the story started out about a person that was called the pain eater. A person in a tribe that was cursed to take on all the other people in the tribe's pain and problems all the time. Each person who took over the story added their own slant to it, often you could tell it related to their own lives. The bullies made it as if the pain eater liked it or deserved it. The ones who were bullied, well they put that into their stories. And then, the person who had been the watcher on the night Maddy was raped, told his side in his story.
But there are other people in class, who have absolutely no part in Maddy's rape. Good people though. People that will believe Maddy, and support her when things come out. Maddy will end up with rumors getting spread around school when the boys start worrying she will come forward. They even pull her aside another time and threaten her when she cleans something off her locker that they'd put there to make sure she remembered.
Maddy has changed at home, her sister has noticed, her parents have noticed, and they want her to maybe go talk to someone. But she isn't ready. She is working through her feelings herself, and getting it out through her own means.
As someone who is a high school librarian, and who has taught grades 7-12, so much of this is real to me. I've seen the bullying, I've seen the students act that way in classes. As someone who has been through a similar experience, I could feel all the feelings that Maddy would feel.
This was a very emotional read, but one that is an important one. While the ending is kind of vague in that we don't get all of the strings tied up, it is really probably what works best. It is the way the class story ended, and so I like that the actual book itself mirrored that. While I wanted nothing more than to see everyone get exactly what they deserved, the way it ended again is probably realistic. In my mind I could assume that those who were guilty got what they deserved, even though in real life, that is not always the case.