So, I started sifting through my book collection, which remains mostly still boxed from the last move. As it is I keep finding things that need to take priority over buying a bookshelf, most of my personal collection remains boxed up, with me occasionally sifting through it to find something that's bothering me. (In today's instance, I was looking for Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett's fabulous Good Omens.) Well, while looking through my over large collection of paperback Mercedes Lackey and Sharon R. Green novels, I found a lone hardcover I got through Paperback Swap a few years back.
And, oh Cthulhu, did it bring back memories.
When Jeff Comes Home by Catherine Atkins is packaged as Young Adult fiction, but wow, there's more triggers in there than on a fanfic website. The plot centers around Jeff, kidnapped on the way home from a baseball game, returning to his parents about 3 years after the kidnapping. We deal with his re-integration to high school life, what really is Stockholm Syndrome in relation to his kidnapper, and about halfway through the book, the arrest of the kidnapper.
It's a very hard book to read. Jeff goes out of his way to not talk about the variety of abuses the kidnapper put him through, which makes it worse when after the arrest, said kidnapper is telling everyone that the sex between them was consensual and instigated by Jeff. Which, given Jeff is in High School, causes abuse and bullying by his new peers. Because, hey, it's ok that he was getting raped by his 40 some odd year old kidnapper, because obviously Jeff was some kind of faggot who deserved it.
I think it was Hero girl who posted something a while back about the idea of things we fantasize about being a hell of a lot nastier in the reality. (I delved through her archives looking for the post, but I either misremembered it or it was posted in another on-line forum). I know I myself, standing on my own borders of kink vs vanilla, used to contemplate such things if they would have happened to me. But really, this book is an illustration of what even a virtual reality can be like. Because in reality, Jeff probably would have been killed. Even in this virtual reality his life is hell. I spent half the narrative wanting to hug him or smack the crap out of him. Neither of which would have been the correct response to where he was emotionally during the narrative. And in a fantasy setting, you can say "no" and leave. Which doesn't work in a real situation.
Also, having started the actual coming out process in high school (I'll present it thusly. One of the first openly gay people I ever really talked to divided coming out into 4 parts. 1. Coming out to yourself. 2. Coming out to your friends. 3. Coming out to your family. 4. Coming out to the world. I had started part 1 prior to high school, but I found out that starting part 2 in high school social setting more or less got the ball rolling on part 4. I survived, but oh lord, it was hard on occasion.), the interaction with his less supportive classmates started bring up a lot of old hurts I thought I'd moved beyond.
It also is a striking illustration of a dysfunctional family. Not only the fucked up relationship between Jeff and his kidnapper, but the re-integration with his real family. Mind you, there's one whole hell of a lot of stress on the relationships here, what with 2 younger siblings mostly ignored while the parents are trying to keep hope alive that their golden oldest son is alive and well somewhere, a wife and husband being torn apart by grief... And the fact no one want sto really talk about any of it. Dad keeps trying to get Jeff to talk about his experience, yet ignores the pain elsewhere in his family.
It's about 250 pages of ugly and trigger situations. It's also exceptionally well written and hard to put down. I know it's YA, but it's also not one I'd recommend to folks under 15ish.