Content warning: This review discussing subject matter pertaining to sexual assault.
The number of young adults that have been sexually abused is disarming. UN Women reported that approximately 15 million adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) worldwide have experienced forced sex (forced sexual intercourse or other sexual acts) at some point in their life. For many, 15 million is just a number, but after reading The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson and discovering what the novel’s main character, Skye, went through when she was only twelve years old, it’s hard not to get emotional.
In The Art of Breaking Things, seventeen-year-old Skye is sexually assaulted by Dan, her mother’s boyfriend and the man she used to trust the most. After her mother breaks up with him and Skye tries to process the trauma through art and constant drug use, life for the protagonist seems to be returning to some sort of normal. On top of her partially destructive new lifestyle, Skye has also developed a reputation as the school slut after sleeping with almost any guy who approaches her. However, the only guy who she refuses to hook up with is her best friend Ben. She fears that acting on her feelings for him will ruin their friendship and believes it’s impossible that Ben would want anything more from her than sex. When Skye’s mother decides to reintroduce Dan into their family, Skye fears that Dan will continue his ways but with her younger sister, Emma, who has just turned twelve.
Now Skye must choose between leaving her town to study art or forfeiting her dreams to protect her little sister from suffering the same trauma she did.
Writing novels about abuse isn’t easy but the author manages to tell Skye’s story in such a way that you feel compelled to continue reading. Readers are forced to focus on Skye’s insecurities and how her past trauma affects the way she views herself and others. I was glad when Skye discovered and expressed herself through her art instead of narcotics. I got teary-eyed and upset when Skye recounts all her experiences with Dan and tries to understand how someone who was supposed to be looking out for her best interest creates nightmares for her instead. Even though the ending wasn’t what I expected, I realized that not every story about abuse ends up the way Skye’s does.
It’s a moving story that delivers a powerful message, especially for those who feel that they don’t have a voice. The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson is a novel that truly captures the effects of abuse on an individual.