- Title: The Protected
- Author: Claire Zorn
- Category: Young Adult
- Publisher: University Of Queensland Press 2013
- Pages: 264
- My Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: ‘I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.’
Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems? Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that? In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.
My Review: Claire Zorn’s second novel The Protected had me as captivated as her first novel (Read my review: The Sky So Heavy). Read in one sitting on a sleepless night it was the heartbreaking story of Hannah who lost her sister, Katie in a terrible car accident.
The story is set nearly a year after the accident, but through a series of flashbacks of Hannah’s life before the accident we learn what life was like in Hannah’s world. And that life was horrific daily bullying at school that was slowly and painfully becoming something Hannah couldn’t handle. She had a difficult relationship with her sister, Katie, who was in the cool crowd and didn’t want Hannah to disrupt her own status at school.
Hannah misses Katie so much, she can hear her in her thoughts, but Hannah and Katie’s relationship was tricky – Katie accused Hannah of worrying too much about what people think, but it was Katie herself who constantly changed herself to fit in so to me – she worried about what people thought too. Katie wanted Hannah to stand up for herself, to fight back but Hannah didn’t, she just let the bullying happen, as though she deserved it.
The family are torn apart after the accident. Hannah is numb with pain, her parents are lost to her – caught up in their grief, and without her sister or any friends she struggles to find her place. She is alienated at school and at home at times, as her parents struggle to return to normal life, especially her mother. And, with Katie’s death the bullying stops. Guilt plagues Hannah as she begins her life again without the constant daily fear of bullying and knowing that the only thing that ended it was the death of her sister. Now she is ignored, that is until the new boy Josh begins to take notice of her.
Josh is a bit of an outsider, a new boy with fresh attitude. He doesn’t seem to care what other people think and sees something in Hannah. They become friends, Hannah’s first friend in a very long time. He cares about her, and for the first time Hannah begins to realises she can be herself. This budding friendship is wonderful to read. Josh is funny and witty and brings Hannah out of her shell. He introduces her to new friends and for the first time in years Hannah begins to feel what it is like to be included and accepted for herself.
As the court case for the car crash looms, Hannah knows all the things she wants to say, but can’t get the words out – as if they are frozen with the day Katie died. Her father cannot remember the accident and throughout the book Hannah feels the pressure to reveal her memories of the accident as her father is charged for negligent driving and she has been called as a witness for the court case. But Hannah can’t remember the accident either and it’s not until the school counsellor connects with Hannah that the frozen words and memories thaw. It is then that the truth is revealed about the day of the accident, the lead up to the crash and the guilt and shame Hannah is hiding. It will break your heart.
I really enjoyed The Protected, it was beautifully written, raw and real – and I can see it being nominated for a few awards. Although marketed as Young Adult, I would recommend this novel for adults as well. It was heartbreaking and achingly sad, it tapped into the harsh issues of bullying, grief, shattered families and what it takes to heal.
Read the first chapter of The Protected HERE
Read all of my Book Reviews HERE
Author Bio: Claire Zorn lives on the south coast of New South Wales with her husband and two small children. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Post Graduate Diploma in writing. She is a music lover, retro furniture collector and amateur swim-club enthusiast.