Unleaving

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 26 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Maggie is escaping a maelstrom of victim blaming when she reported a sexual assault that led to the expulsion of several popular athletes. She takes a break from college to live with her Aunt Wren. Maggie soon has to face what happened especially as she starts receiving emails from a girl who needs help dealing with her own sexual assault.

This story delves deeply into the lives of sexual assault victims. It tells their story in such an intriguing way that I was hooked. I wanted to root for the characters in their struggles and cheer in their successes. The story was a quick read and an excellent example of realistic fiction. If you want to put yourself temporarily in someone else's shoes, this is a great way to do that.
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In this timely novel that speaks to the rape culture pervasive in our society, 19-year-old college student Maggie is assaulted at a fraternity party and leaves school and her hometown to escape the vicious backlash by fans of the college football team after several players are expelled. She goes to live with her Aunt Wren, a famous artist who left her family at 18 and remained estranged from both parents and her twin sister, Maggie’s mother Min. Although it’s meant as an escape and a chance to heal from the PTSD she has suffered as the result of the trauma, Maggie struggles to put the past behind her because of the drama surrounding her aunt and the neighbors. When she begins receiving emails from another student who has been raped and is looking to Maggie for help, she wonders if she will able to heal or if the reminders of that night will continue to haunt her. 

Unleaving is a worthy successor to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Ostrom successfully navigates not only the issues of rape, shame and victim-blaming, but also the damage done by abusive parents and the foster care system and the inadvisability of trying to bury the past rather than work through it. Through Maggie, she also demonstrates that many people have two faces, and that those who love them often don’t see the dark side. Characters such as Linnie who bears the emotional scars of an abusive childhood, Sam who has never truly mourned his mother’s death, their five-year-old daughter Kate, and Aunt Wren and Min who won’t address the reason for the estrangement are well-developed and ultimately serve as catalysts for Maggie to face her fears and return to the scene of the crime. The only criticism is that the ending was abrupt, leaving several unanswered questions.Trigger warning for rape and other kinds of abuse. Highly recommended for libraries that serve young adults. 

I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Feiwel & Friends through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed are completely my own.
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Maggie is moving in with her estranged aunt, her mom's twin, after she was raped on her college campus. Maggie wasn't able to heal or live in her college town, and to get away she will be living with her aunt. While there, Maggie meets many of the important people in her aunt's life, like the neighbor, his son, the son's daughter, and the son's frequently absent ex. Maggie's aunt is a well known artist and she is currently working on an emotionally difficult piece about her past. Maggie struggles with flashbacks, has a hard time reaching out to those around her, but piece by piece she is healing. Until, she receives an email from another girl at college, who was raped like her. Maggie regresses, but also feels the need to reach out and help. Perhaps it will be through the shared sexual assault past that Maggie will be able to find her ability to live again and help others heal from their own past traumas.

The emotions of this book were well-done. Maggie was frustrating, at times, but in a way that was believable within the situation. I think this novel touches on Maggie's courage and the power of connection in shared trauma. I think this is an important novel for college readers, because it gives them the empowerment to survive, if they experience a similar situation. I also think it will appeal to any reader who has felt ostracized by their peer group. It is an empowering novel that will stay with you.
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I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review.

This was a really good story about the aftermath of rape and the scars it leaves.  Instead of focusing on what happened to Maggie it is more about the recovery process.  While it is still an emotional read I found it more therapeutic than draining.  There were some scenes I found so relaxing in their description, I wish I could have visited.  Not to say there isn't drama, because there is, but it all flows together nicely with the characters to make an impactful story.
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A dark, heavy story handled well. I was engrossed by the various story lines - I had to know how all the pieces came together. I didn't click with any of the characters. Many of the central ones were recovering from some manner of trauma as well as they could, with different levels of success. It made some of them hard to "like." Overall, I think the story was too dark for me to "enjoy" it, but it's well written and engaging. (Language, TW: Sexual assault/abuse)
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This book is very timely and realistic. The way the author has Maggie deal with the aftermath of the rape to me seemed realistic. I know everyone deals differently but I do know there are good days and bad days and 1 word or movement by someone (even yourself) can trigger the memories or bits of the memories to come flooding back and send you into a spiral. I could have had less of the side characters that were with Maggie as she healed and had it be just her and I would have liked it more but overall this is a very moving and powerful book!
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Unleaving is a thoughtful, contemplative  young adult novel centered around 19 year old Maggie as she deals with the aftermath of an on campus rape that resulted in her having to leave college due to the trauma she's experiencing not just from the rape itself but from the cold and callous reactions of the community she lives in.

While staying with her Aunt Wren, Maggie begins to slowly cope with what's happened to her via her blossoming friendship with Linnie, a troubled young woman who is the mother of a five year old (wonderfully written as an actual child) and via corresponding and then meeting Jane, a young woman who was also a victim of rape at Maggie's college. Maggie also learns of her own family's history, uncovering why her mother and her aunt have had a distant and troubled relationship.

There's a lot to unpack in Unleaving, and the pacing isn't quite right--it rushes when it should slow down, especially toward the end, and lags when it could move faster (the best plot developments don't occur till over 45% of the way in.

However, Unleaving is sensitive and thoughtful about trauma survivors and survival, and would be excellent when paired with the classic Speak.
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Maggie was gang raped. Maggie was brave and fought for justice. Maggie became a social pariah, and was forced to leave her home. What happened to Maggie, before and after her assault, was wrong, but leaving her hometown put her on her path to healing. 

This was an emotional read, but hopeful. I really appreciated that Ostrom focused on Maggie's recovery. There were flashbacks, which I think were there to help us understand her mental state, but they were not graphic. I didn't feel like I needed all the details to understand, that a grievous crime was committed against Maggie, but I did love getting to watch her take back what was stolen from her. 

A big part of Maggie's recovery was the amazing "family" Ostrom assembled. Her own parents were helping her, as best they could, but Maggie really did need to get some distance from where the crime was committed. Being with her Aunt, Wren, brought so may other people into her life. Sam, Linnie, Caleb, Kate, Ran and the other bookclub girls were all integral to Maggie's healing process. I especially liked that many of the characters were dealing with their own issues, and it was that shared pain that made their interactions so meaningful. Maggie's story was powerful on its own, but coupled with Wren and Linnie's stories, it packed an even bigger emotional punch. 

I also adored the setting. My daughter did her undergraduate degree at Syracuse, so I am fairly well acquainted with Central New York. It was fun to see Dinosaur BBQ and Stella's (two awesome eateries) visited in the book. Ostrom also did a wonderful job taking us to the shores of Lake Ontario. She wrapped me in the sounds, the smells, the colors, and the textures, which really rounded out the experience for me. 

I had a love/hate relationship with the ending. I loved that everybody seemed to be healing and good things were happening. Linnie, Wren, and Sam all had such wonderful futures in the works. I also thought the decision Maggie made was fantastic. I never doubted her inner strength, and it was great to see her tapping into it again. My problem was that it seemed a little abrupt. I sort of understand why the author ended where she did, but I still kept looking to see if there were some pages missing. 

Overall: This was an incredible healing journey, which showed how important love, support, and understanding can be.
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Trigger warning for mentions of rape. 

Maggie suffered a traumatic event last year - she was raped by multiple guys at her Vermont college during a party. After pressing charges, she deals with harassment all around her from people who either don't believe her and/or don't support her and/or worship the college football player who confessed. To escape the harassment, and to deal with everything, Maggie takes time off of school and goes to upstate New York to stay with her aunt. 

This book isn't a love story, like a lot of YA books tend to be. This is a story about healing and found family. When Maggie stays with her aunt, she makes a group of unexpected friends - Sam and Linnie, who had a kid in high school five years ago but aren't really together anymore, a group of girls at a book club in the next town over, and Caleb, who will help her when she needs to go on a road trip to confront her past. 

Unleaving is heartbreaking at times, but realistic - those who you think will support you when you go through something traumatic might not be supportive after all. Those who you don't expect to support you could. And though everyone should be supportive, you should be allowed to heal in your own way. Overall, this novel is well-written, important, and timely.

Thank you to netgalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Unleaving is a timely reflection of an ongoing societal problem: rape and its aftermath, particularly the complicated matter of healing. Yet Melissa Ostrom's second novel is not a depressing read because she imbues her main character Maggie's struggle to heal with the universal need we all have to heal ourselves and our world. The result is an optimistic view of what humans are capable of accomplishing, even after suffering the worst ordeals.

Maggie is a strong young woman who endures a lot and stands up for herself and others. But that is only part of the story, and it remains the backdrop to the daily interactions Maggie has with those she meets in her new life away from the college where the rape took place. Overall, this is a story of healing through kinship - not just family kinship, though Maggie does develop a bond with her aunt as they heal together from traumatic events of their pasts - but also the kinship of good people trying to be their best. There is a struggling young mother, a frustrated father, and a little girl who won't let her parents give up on her or themselves. And there is the loving environment of the group of people who Maggie comes to know and rely upon as she finds the outer boundaries of her own inner strength. 

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is the way characters, particularly women, help each other as they form or mend relationships. Melissa Ostrom handles the issues of rape, loss, betrayal, shame, and the trauma that forms from any one of these experiences with a strong yet delicate touch. In this way, she allows her characters to reveal their humanity in all its fragility even as they demonstrate incredible strength.
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A devastatingly hard book exploring the impact that personal trauma has on family, connection and personal development, Melissa Ostrom’s Unleaving delves into the lives of four women all who have been changed in some way by traumatic experiences and their search to find meaning and healing. An insightful and relevant book—however, paragraphs do jump across time unexpectedly, jolting the reader and causing disorientation. – Leza Bredenkamp

3 1/2 stars.
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5 plus stars-Maggie is such an amazingly strong person and the way she handled everything was fantastic. This was a tough story line to read but a very important one. The author did such an amazing job describing and handling the difficult subject matter> This book was extremely well written and intense. Thank you for allowing me to read and write about this book.
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Unleaving is a good book to read if you are just starting college or about to start college within the next year. The book described a situation that seems to be the norm of the college lifestyle. Go to a party, meet a guy, and now a victim of date rape. This is a pretty close reflection of the Me Too campaign going on and the moral definitely is that silence is a killer and when the victim no matter the circumstance such as hate from other students going around campus and hateful emails sent, knowing that you did the right thing and the bravery to deal with the consequences, is true strength and that is exactly what Maggie displayed throughout the whole book.

Thank you Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. We will definitely consider adding this title to our YFiction collection. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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