Amy Giles’ debut YA novel “Now is Everything” tackles the issue of parental abuse from a viewpoint many teens might relate to — alternating between wanting to speak out but being afraid to do so.
The protagonist, Hadley McCauley, is the eldest daughter in the richest family in town. Her mother drinks too much wine in an effort to dull the emotional and physical trauma inflicted by her controlling husband, a successful and ultra-competitive A-type personality. Her father expects the absolute best from Hadley, and flips his lid and beats her when he doesn’t get it. He over-reacts at the slightest provocation, leaving Hadley walking on eggshells all the time. She is willing to put up with the abuse, as long as her 10-year-old sister Lila remains untargeted. But once Hadley hooks up with her first boyfriend, Charlie Simmons, the carefully crafted facade she presents to the outside world begins to crack, leaving Lila in her father’s crosshairs. This forces Hadley to come up with a desperate plan to save Lila — one which will end up changing everyone’s lives forever.
The book does an adequate job buidling up the suspense of Hadley’s plan and its outcome and is an enjoyable read. The only problem I have with the book is that the characters are too shallow for me to really care about. Lila, precocious and energetic, is the best-developed character. But I feel like I know too little about Hadley and what really makes her tick. She doesn’t want to play LaCrosse or attend an Ivy League school as her father wishes…but I never get a sense of what she aspires to do or be instead. Granted, she’s a teen, and isn’t expected to really have her life figured out yet…but I would have loved for the author to reveal more about her protagonist’s dreams and ambitions besides hanging out with her boyfriend and two best friends.
The mother and father are also a bit one-dimensional. The mom is a typical upper-middle class, pretentious lush who will maintain the status quo to protect her privilege as a kept woman The father is just a tremendous jerk, with little redeeming qualities. People are not like this in real life. Most abusers also have decent qualities which gain their victims’ affection, at least until they explode. This is why victims give them so many chances. In this case, I would think Hadley would have reported him long ago, because there is not a lot of affinity between them whatsoever — especially knowing what’s in store for little Lila.
I also didn’t get a sense that the mental abuse was horrific. The physical abuse as described certainly crosses the line between discipline and criminality, but the mental aspect, for anyone growing up with tough parents, doesn’t seem to cross too far into the abuse category. Like I said earlier, the father is a completely aggressive jerk, but not sure his yelling and intimidation counts as child abuse as clearly as the physical abuse does.
Regardless, any teen with overbearing parents will relate (isn’t that all of you?), and hopefully any who read this novel that are experiencing actual physical harm will gain the courage to tell someone before things spiral as badly as they do in Hadley’s world.
“Now is Everything” was released on November 7th by Harper Teen. (AMAZON AFFILIATE LINK)