Kat's Reviews > Touch

Touch by Francine Prose
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's review
Nov 10, 09

bookshelves: ya-fiction, realistic-fiction
Read in November, 2009

What really happened that day in the back of the school bus? This story is tragically realistic, and it is written well for its intended age group. It can be hard to find something for junior high and early high school students on a tough topic like inappropriate touching or sexual assault without being a full-on troubling teen novel about rape, incest, or other disturbing sexual violence. While its important to hear the voices of female victims of any type of assault, "Touch" tells a more subtle story that unfortunately may be much more common and easily-dismissed than we might think.
Maisie has always been best friends with Shakes, Chris, and Kevin. It never seemed to matter before that she was the only girl. They did everything together, up until Maisie left for a year to spend 8th grade with her mother out-of-state. She returns for 9th grade to find that her old friends can't seem to see past her newly-developed chest, and she now feels painfully alone and alienated by her own body. What initially begins as consensual cuddling with one of her old friends on the morning bus ride transforms into an ugly incident of unwanted chest-groping from all three of her so-called best friends, with subsequent spreading of dirty rumors about her around school. Maisie feels confused and hurt and unable to distinguish between truth and lie as she recounts her story. After a witness tells the principal, Maisie's overzealous stepmother quickly jumps in, ever so eager to sue the school and anyone else she can blame. Between Maisie's stepmother, her therapist, the taunting kids at school, and Maisie's underlying feelings of betrayal yet lingering loyalty to her old friends, Maisie tries to piece together the events that led to what really happened on the bus. I was impressed with how Prose was able to take a really complicated and multi-layered issue and present it as an authentic-sounding yet simple narrative of a young freshman. Maisie's realizations about herself as a victim and the people around her ring true as life lessons learned the tragic way by someone still coming of age, but she pulls through with a realistic yet admirable amount of strength.
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