“There are tons of kids out there who endure chronic abuse and suffer in silence. They can’t trust anyone, they can’t tell anyone, and they have no idea how to get away from it.” — C. Kennedy
I have a hard time reading books containing incest. The subject matter is a heinous one and I laud author Mia Kerick for attempting to tackle it in her newest book. When I got to the first part in Intervention where the history of incest was clearly stated, I didn’t think I’d be able to read the book. But, I pressed on. I’m not sure if it had to do with the skilled way in which Ms. Kerick wrote it or my determination to get through a troubling story. I say all this to be sure you know where I was while reading Intervention.
**Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers**
Intervention is really a beautiful story about the healing power of music, the redemptive power of love and the overall power of trust in another human being. Kai is the musical entertainment at Coed Joe’s, the coffee shop near the arts college where both his parents teach, his brother attends, and he hopes to attend next year. He is a senior in high school, gay and sexually promiscuous. His only “relationship” ended in him being stalked. A theme began in the book at this point that I will address as I continue. Kai threatened to report his stalker several times, but did not do it.
Jamie is a server at the same coffee shop. He is a freshman in college majoring in Fine Arts. People have nick-named him “Pretty Vacant”, because while he is pretty to look at, there seems to be nobody inside. There is nothing behind Jamie’s eyes. The reason he presents this façade to the world is that Jamie is being molested. Let’s call it what it is: raped, by his older step-brother. It started when Jamie was only fourteen. His step-brother convinced him, as most predators do, that if Jamie told anyone what they were doing together, bad things would happen. I won’t spoil the story by telling you what he threatened Jamie with.
At Coed Joe’s, Kai is very taken with Jamie and tries to ask him out but gets frozen out. He decides to use his platform as a literal platform, to send messages to Jamie. He calls them musical Interventions. Every night he plays and sings songs tied to a single theme. The themes are aimed at letting Jamie know he is not alone, that he can heal and that Kai is someone he can trust. Slowly, Kai gets Jamie’s attention and they begin a tentative relationship built on that trust. Jamie is socially and romantically immature, so things progress at a glacial pace with a lot of backsliding and boundary issues on Jamie’s part.
Kai is abnormally patient with Jamie’s demands and limitations. For a young man who, until very recently, was pretty much a slut to give up sex entirely based on the outside chance that Jamie, this damaged, tortured soul, may somehow be able to participate in a normal sexual relationship with him wasn’t plausible for me. He is eighteen, drowning in hormones and I am a realist. I was unable to suspend belief for that behavior.
Jamie and Kai fall in love. It is not insta-love, which I was happy to see. A slow developing of trust and deepening of feelings was so much more realistic and developed beautifully. Ms. Kerick wrote of the loss of Jamie’s innocence as he told Kai about the abuse he had suffered at his step-brother’s hands. The way Kai’s brother, Chuck, just so warmly welcomed Jamie into their lives and treated him normally was very sweet to read. Jamie really began to blossom in the presence of all that love and normalcy. He began to meet with a counselor on campus and made strides in putting his healing on paper, in his art. He was making amazing progress.
Then Jamie’s father was hospitalized with heart trouble. This was the very thing that Jamie had feared for years. It was also the axe that his step-brother held over his head. If Jamie told anyone about the abuse, his father’s bad heart would certainly be unable to handle it and he would have a heart attack and die. In his rush to get to his father’s side, Jamie forgot his cell phone at school. He got stuck at his parents’ house that night and his step-brother raped him.
When Jamie got back to campus, he was Pretty Vacant Jamie again. He told Kai he never wanted to see or talk to him again. He shut everyone out. The guilt he carried over the continuing abuse coupled with the guilt he felt about “cheating” on Kai was too much for him to bear. He quit his job and planned to go home for the summer, where his step-brother assured him the abuse would continue. Jamie felt he was out of options.
Kai, with the help of Chuck and some friends was slowly able to bring his Jamie back out of his shell. They made arrangements for summer living, they rebuilt trust while Kai assured Jamie that what had happened was not cheating, it was rape. Jamie grew so strong that he began to take control of his own healing. He decided to tell his father the truth during a session with his counselor.
Ms. Kerick wrote realistically that Jamie’s father didn’t believe him at first. He tried to rationalize it away as Jamie being confused, though he did eventually believe him. What followed was, unfortunately, all too real. Jamie’s dad wanted time to speak to his wife and ASK the molester to leave. Jamie promised to give him this time while thinking about whether or not to press criminal charges. Where was the father’s outrage that his son had been so horribly abused by someone he himself had invited into their home? Why was he not demanding immediate justice for his son? Keep in mind that most states have mandated reporting laws and the therapist at the very least would have been required by law to report the abuse.
Following the theme started when Kai didn’t report his former boyfriend’s stalking, Jamie decides, under pressure from his father and step-mother, not to file criminal charges against his step-brother. I am astounded that an author would write a book directed at a YA audience and allow this to be part of the story. Ms. Kerick had the power to show our young people that child molesters can’t get away with their abuse. She had the reins to empower Jamie to take back control of his life by seeing justice done. She chose to instead have Jamie give in to the pressure applied by his father and step-mother and let the monster roam free. How will Jamie ever have true peace in his soul if he knows his rapist is out there and could show up at any moment to rape him again? This is just a dangerous message to present to our young adult readers.
My strong feeling about incest come across very clearly. Having been molested myself as a teenager, I found Jamie’s behavior to be realistically portrayed by Ms. Kerick. The fear of everyone and for those he loves, the constant one step forward, two steps back dance with healing. The reluctance to rock the family boat. These are the ways in which sexually abused youth really act. Their every move continues to be controlled by their abuser’s threats.
But, we as publishers, authors, reviewers and even readers have the power to change this! We can write realistic books about molestation in which the victim takes his power back and uses it to get justice for himself. We can show these kids that they can change from victims to victors. This is the most important plot point all YA books which address sexual or physical abuse should contain. Tell someone. If they don’t believe you tell someone else. Shout it from the rooftops until someone believes you. And get equity for yourself. You didn’t deserve to be abused, but you do deserve justice for your abuser.