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These Gentle Wounds

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Sometimes I wish I’d lost a leg or something. Everyone can understand that. They never get it when what’s been broken is inside your head.

Five years after an unspeakable tragedy that changed him forever, Gordie Allen has made a new home with his half-brother Kevin. Their arrangement works since Kevin is the only person who can protect Gordie at school and keep him focused on getting his life back on track.

But just when it seems like things are becoming normal, Gordie’s biological father comes back into the picture, demanding a place in his life. Now there’s nothing to stop Gordie from falling into a tailspin that could cost him everything—including his relationship with Sarah, the first girl he’s trusted with the truth. With his world spinning out of control, the only one who can help Gordie is himself . . . if he can find the strength to confront the past and take back his future.

312 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2014

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About the author

Helene Dunbar

8 books287 followers
Called the "queen of heartbreaking prose" by Paste Magazine, Helene Dunbar is the author of WE ARE LOST AND FOUND (Sourcebooks, September 2019), PRELUDE FOR LOST SOULS (August, 2020), and THE PROMISE OF LOST THINGS (2022), as well as BOOMERANG, THESE GENTLE WOUNDS, and WHAT REMAINS. Over the years, she's worked as a drama critic, journalist, and marketing manager, and has written on topics as diverse as traditional Irish music, court cases, and theater. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter.

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5 stars
289 (38%)
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266 (35%)
3 stars
158 (20%)
2 stars
36 (4%)
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11 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 158 reviews
Profile Image for Jaye.
Author 8 books447 followers
December 29, 2014
This is one of the most tightly focused 1st person voices I've read. Gordie is a 15 yo boy suffering from PTSD at the hands of an abusive father and a, most likely, mentally ill mother, or perhaps she had PTSD herself, whichever, the mom isn't in the story, only the consequence of her very major action.

This book is painful and sad and I wanted to reach through the pages and scoop up Gordie to hug him and also shake him and tell him, please, please, please, get it out. Talk to someone. The unspooling of his story and path to healing is so subtle and so deftly done, that I easily and willingly fell deeper and deeper into Gordie's world. The book also contains one of the sweetest first date, first kiss scenes in the history of bookdom. I love Gordie's very normal, very real insecurity when it comes to Sarah. And how Sarah is with Gordie. And I can't wind down without mentioning Gordie's big brother Kevin. Kevin is his own brand of wounded hero and I loved him, too.

Recommend for those who like intense, close narrators, real-life issues you may or may not have ever experienced, and fans of strong writing. Great boy POV.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,113 reviews8,046 followers
May 27, 2015
I was really surprised by this book! I first heard about it while browsing NetGalley about a year ago, but I was denied an eARC. So since then I've been meaning to get it out from the library, and today I finally did. I read this book in one sitting. Though it's a quick and easy read, it's not particularly light. There are some thematic elements in this book relating to trauma that make it quite powerful.

What I appreciated a lot about this book was how it highlights the relationship between two brothers. I personally don't feel like you get that perspective a lot in literature, especially in Young Adult literature which is most often told from the female perspective. This story is told by Gordie Allen whose mother and younger siblings all died in an incident five years ago. Gordie was the only surivor, and now lives with his half-brother, Kevin, and Kevin's father, Jim. The relationship between Gordie and Kevin was so beautiful. You find out more and more about their childhood, and seeing how that affected their relationship as teenagers was really well done.

Something that often annoys me about YA is when characters don't speak up or when they make illogical decisions, and the reader is just supposed to accept that because the characters are young. But in this book, the author presents a story that has frustrating moments that are true to life, and moments when the characters, who have gone through a lot in their short lives and are capable of making smart decisions, do so. It was quite refreshing.

I'm a bit surprised that no one I know has read this book. I feel like it could be quite popular. It has a bit of romance that I wasn't a huge fan of, but was definitely not the worst romance I've ever read. Other than that, I thought this book did a great job of addressing issues that some teens go through in a poignant and touching way.
February 25, 2018
Тежка книга! Една от онези дето те стискат за шията като си представиш, че има хора, които действително живеят по-този начин - с баща насилник. Имаше някои много силни, емоционални моменти и някои много пропити от напрежение сцени, но нещо в самия разказ не ми достигна да дам пълно 5.
Горди е на 10, когато майка му вкарва в реката колата с цел да убие всичките си деца и себе си. Само, че Горди единствен оцелява. Но на каква цена? Той продължава да живее със своя полубрат Кевин и неговият баща Джим, защото бащата на Горди изчезва и изобщо не се интересува от него. И по-добре. Макар, че е обгърнат с грижи, в училище е отличник и е добър в хокея, Горди живее с демоните вътре в себе си. Той се мисли за чудовище заради пристъпите, които получава, нервните сривове и това, че няма приятели го изолира от всички.
Докато в един момент след 5 години, когато първата любов чука на вратата и това трябва да са най-щастливите му мигове, изчезналия баща се връща и предявява претенции да си го вземе. Само, че никой не знае колко зъл е бил бащата и че майка му именно заради него решава да сложи край на живота си и този на децата си. Съдът определя една пробна седмица и Горди няма избор, трябва да се върне при онзи страшния, непознатия, чудовищен баща. Но дали ще оцелее психически и физически през тази седмица или ще се пречупи завинаги? Дали ще успее да се спаси и окончателно да се отърве от заплахите на този човек или ще влезе в кошмар, от който няма измъкване?
Profile Image for Калина Минчева.
392 reviews83 followers
December 17, 2017
Много се двоумях между 4 и 5 звезди като крайна оценка. Все пак ще кажа 4.5 - дълбоко трогателна, умопомрачителна, разтърсваща и емоционално наситена история за това, което всеки от нас чувства в най-суров вид, за тъмните пътеки в ума, за демоните отвън и отвътре, които с общи, съгласувани действия са способни да изкарат човек луд и чудовище, когато в действителност е най-нормално човешко същество, което е изправено пред трудни и невъзможни дори ситуации от твърде крехка възраст. Чудесна книга, такава, която може би не е много подходяща за коледния сезон, но определено е задължителна като един наръчник на тема "Не си сам", "Не си чудовище", "Всичко ще се оправи".
Горди, всичко ще бъде наред :)
Profile Image for Julian Lyubomirov.
199 reviews37 followers
December 6, 2018
Спомням си как през лятото зърнах книгата за един единствен кратък момент в сайта на Хеликон. После ѝ изгубих следите и прекарах една почти цяла нощ да я търся, без да зная заглавие. И наистина, при толкова красива корица не е възможно да липсва интерес.
А сега, когато затворих последната страница на "Времето отвътре" не мога да повярвам, че ми отне цели шест дни. Определено не е съвсем моята история, определено намирах почти всяка една сцена за предраматизирана и много често четях без удоволствие.
Все пак ще дам шанс и на другата книга на авторката, пък дано ми хареса повече.
Profile Image for Книжни Криле.
2,827 reviews151 followers
February 12, 2019
„Времето отвътре“ (изд. „AMG Publishing“) е една от онези книги, чиито сцени не ми излизат от главата дълго време след като съм приключила с четенето. Хелън Дънбар прекарва читателите си през тежки теми и довежда читателите си до истински катарзис, но не и преди да ги е прекарала през истинско емоционално стакато. Прочетете ревюто на "Книжни Криле": https://knijnikrile.wordpress.com/201...
Profile Image for Kaya Dimitrova.
327 reviews70 followers
March 11, 2019
Прочетох книгата преди малко повече от година, но все още си спомням, макар и смътно, емоционалните сцени, с които беше наситена тя. "Времето отвътре" се занимава с посттравматичния стрес и съпътстващите го депресия, паника, ужас, недоверие в околните...
Независимо от тежките теми, които засяга, книгата не е посветена на отчаянието, а на любовта (не само романтичната, а и тази на семейството ни), която е способна да ни измъкне и от най-големия мрак.
Profile Image for Tee loves Kyle Jacobson.
2,471 reviews169 followers
April 23, 2014
These Gentle Wounds is an AMAZING story and one I will re-read for years to come. I have someone who is very close to me and near and dear to my heart who suffers from PTSD and I have to say reading this book had me crying so hard because I know his struggle is like Gordie's struggle and I often wonder if he will ever get help or trust someone like Gordie did.

This is a story about a 15 year old bot who has suffered a horrible tragedy at such a young age. After the tragedy he goes to live with his older brother Kevin and let me tell you something Kevin is everything a brother should be. He steps right in and takes care of Gordie and is there for him through thick and thin. Kevin is gordie's protector and will continue to be that as long as Gordie will let him.

Then Gordie meets Sarah and man oh man I love her because she is everything Gordie needs. She loves him with such selflessness that I cried during some parts because she was strong for the both of them and they were able to open and love freely even though Gordie was scared he trusted Sarah and she loved him like no one's business.

I can't say enough about this book but I will say this it is A MUST READ! You will fall in love with Gordie & Sarah & Kevin.

Thank you Amy for allowing me to read this beautiful story early!
Profile Image for J.H. Trumble.
Author 4 books479 followers
June 18, 2014
What a touching, heart-rending book Helene Dunbar has given us for her debut!

Gordie's life is ripped apart when his mom does the unthinkable and drives her car in the river, her young children strapped in their seats. Only Gordie survives, but the trauma has left lasting scars.

Dunbar's treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome is so full realized in this beautiful novel, as well as the ambiguities of Gordie's feelings towards his mom, his half brother, his step father, even himself, that you'll find yourself unable to put this book down. I kept asking myself, how would I have coped with such a loss? Could I have coped?

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book. There is darkness, but there is light too. And hope. A great read for young adults, though I suspect many adults will enjoy it as well. And safe for middle grade.

Well done, Helene!
Profile Image for Kristiana Cankowa.
206 reviews51 followers
April 9, 2018
Определено една разтърсваща история, много ми хареса и най-искрено ме накара да изпитам болка, тъга, разочарование, щастие, смях �� радост.

Историята запознава със 15- годишният Горди, който е доста странно, затворено и "болно" момче. НО ЗАЩО ЛИ...?
Горди има по-голям полубрат Кевин, от 5 години след онзи ужасяващ инцидент, ��ой живее със него и бащата на Кев, но последствията от инцидента са много големи и продължават да го съпътстват и до днес.
Горди получава пристъпи, страхува се от вода, спомените са прекалено жестоки и също така, е накарало момчето да не се доверява на никой друг освен на брат си и донякъде на Джим. (бащата на Кевин)
Но един ден, във гимназията се появява ново момиче- Сара, тя обича да снима и когато за домашно имат проект свързан със "Моби Дик" и във групичката се падат Горди, Сара и още двама човека, то нашия главен герой е много щастлив.Още от първата среща между тях той усеща че по-някакъв начин може напълно да се довери на това момиче и усеща желанието във себе си да я опознае повече и повече.
Във центъра на цялата история е този зловещ инцидент в който майката, сестра му и близнаците умират, а Горди успява да се спаси, но на каква цена. За този инцидент той обвинява себе си, но голяма вина е на баща му, който е цяло чудовище.
Истинската развръзка започва когато бащата на Горди се появява отново и изявява желание да си върне момчето отново...

Няма да продължавам повече със разказването на историята, ще оставя развръзката и подробностите да прочетете сами, и да не ви отнемам от удоволствието.

Има някои неща на който искам да обърна внимание:

✪ Хареса ми че историята е разказана от първо лице.

✪ Кевин е много важен персонаж, той е голяма опора за брат си и същност ако Кев се разпадне психически, то и Горди ще го направи. Страшно много ми хареса как авторката беше пресъздала връзката между братята, не беше изкуствена или написана просто ей така за да я има. Цялата подкрепа и търпение което Кев показваше към Горди, дори когато беше по-строг към него беше със умисъл. Просто много ми хареса как се подкрепяха през цялото време.

✪ И както споменах, стилът на писане на авторката като цяло много ми допадна, увлекателен и доста добре успява да предаде дадената емоция във определен момент, определено бих прочела още нещо от нея.

✪ Определено тази история, макар и измислена кара човек да се замисли за много неща, за хората, за взаимоотношенията родител-дете и това колко голяма може да бъде травмата от действията на единия към другия. История която ни показва как някой път живота се стича така че тези на които можем да вярваме най-много са не най-най близките ни хора, а някой който срещаме за първи път и със добрите си постъпки и мислене успява да ни предразположи да му споделим най-големите си болки и травми. Показва ни и че колкото и да сме зле, каквото и да ни се е случило, със късмет и добри хора около нас, винаги можем да оправим живота си за напред.

✪ И разбира се остана да спомена прекрасната корица, дело на Konture Creative. Освен че е прекрасно нарисувана, също така има и общо със историята, което за мен е голям плюс. Самото издание е много здраво залепено, не се разпада, не се мачка, направено е да се отваря колкото е нужно и превода беше страхотен.


"- Ти си добро хлапе, Горди. Наистина добро хлапе.
Не позволявай никога на никого да ти каже нещо различно."


--- --- --- --- ---


Благодаря Ви, за отделеното време!!!
Profile Image for AdriAnne.
Author 4 books480 followers
March 13, 2014
I wish I had ten stars to give this. It's right up there with other heart-wrenching books like Thirteen Reasons Why and The Fault in Our Stars, and honestly, this one may have resonated with me even more. I was so engrossed I couldn't tear my eyes away until I'd turned the last page, and I cried oh-so-many times. I ADORE this book. Fervently.

Aaand I'm not going to say much more about it than that. Just go read it.
Profile Image for Sofia Li.
60 reviews72 followers
September 10, 2016
*I recieved this book from Lady Reader's Bookstuff fo review purposes which does not in the slightest affect my honest review of the book*

Where do I even begin with this book? How do I start telling you the numerous ways this book touched me? How do I even begin to try and explain when you haven't read it yet?

I think the best way to describe this is as a rich meal. These Gentle Wounds had all of the different types of foods that make you remember why you live to eat. The meat is delicate, and tender. The baked potatoe is drowned in butter, spices, and crispness on the outside. The wine (not that I've had any) is exquisite, it's scents permeating your nostrils the way only the high quality kind will. The bread is light, airy, and still warm from the oven. I hope you get the picture.

The point is that this meal is something you wouldn't trade for the world because of all of its phenomenal qualities, just like this book. One of my highest praises, and I'm sure anybody else's if they have read These Gentle Wounds are the highly developed characters. Gordie, Sarah, Kevin, Jim, even the more minor ones have the quality that all authors strive for. It goes beyond being relatable, because what takes talent is making characters seem real when they're situations are extremely rare.

Gordie could be very standoffish, and off putting if he wasn't written well. In fact, that's whfat he thinks he appears as to the people around him. Instead, readers were given an inside look into his head. You're probably sitting there thinking, "That's what first person is supposed to do Sofia. Didn't you go through 3rd grade?" Like I said before about this story, you have to read it to understand. Gordie has PTSD because his mother did something unspeakable five years before. He wakes up soaked with sweat frequently, he goes off on 'spins' where he has vivid flashbacks and time escapes him. All he can feel is pressure from what happened to him. I could have ended up saying, "Okay....so what?" almost the entire book because of how bizarre the situation was. Instead, it was as if his character's hands reached out a touched my heart on the most incline way possible.

Kevin, Gordie's half-brother, took the brunt of his step-fathers anger, which I am pretty sure you can interpret. It would almost make more sense if Kevin were the one with PTSD because of what Gordie's father did to him. Instead, we learn that Kevin is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to Gordie's protection and safety. He was sort of like Gordie's watch dog. If Helene Dunbar reads this review, she will probably be rolling her eyes and saying, "This review is crazy, first she compares my writing to food, and now one of my main characters to a watchdog?" Let me just explain, Kevin is loyal, Kevin is protective, and he would never let anything happen to his brother. At a young age, he had to deal with his step-father's abuse, seeing his biological father on a few occasions, and all of that transitioned into him becoming the sole-caretaker, and shrink, for his little brother. Kevin is basically Gordie's anchor in life, and you know that he would kill to keep Gordie safe.

Sarah is an interesting character. She's a photographer, ex-bad girl, sister to golden-boy hockey player, Luke Miller, and one of the most understanding characters I have ever met. She becomes Gordie's love interest in this story, and does more than you could ever imagine for him. To Gordie, Sarah isn't just some girl, she becomes his second anchor, and the only person outside of his brother that he can confide in. By herself, I don't think I would like Sarah that much, but through Gordie's eyes, I see what a magnificent person she is, and what it feels like to be in love. She listens wholly without judgement, she adds humor, a ray of sunshine, and proof that Gordie can love and be loved.

It's amazing how well Helene Dunbar captures the act of falling in love, while the two of them are still teenagers. The reason that sentence is written so poorly is because I was trying to avoid the words ''teenage love" because their relationship is not just another flash in the pan. However, the sensations of falling in love when you are a teenager are there because of how Gordie experiences everything for the first time with new eyes. Their love is pure. There is a scene where it seems as if Kevin is about to beat Sarah up because he's afraid she will hurt Gordie. Sarah responds with a full arsenal of defenses to her love and admiration for Gordie. This might seem like nothing, but to Gordie, who is having doubts because of what happens at the story in that time, what she says means everything.

On one of my many-category reviews, I have 'originality' as a category, and frankly, I don't know how this story could be more original. It's a tale of tough issues, grief, and sadness, but it also remains hopeful, and is about finding love, who you are, and how to face your fears. This one book will move mountains more than a thousand books in another genre.

The mental aspect of Gordie is something I have never read about before. Everyone talks about being broken after something tough and having to put yourself back together again, but never what it's like to be broken inside your head. It's something that's incomprehensible to others, as the beginning of the synopsis says, but the readers are given a unique window to see what it's like.

There is a lot more I can say, but it can't be put into words -unless they're about dogs or food- the feelings that were prodded and poked with this novel. My last plugin for all of you is that you have to buy this book when it hits shelves on the 8th of May. I normally am very conservative with my money, but you can bet on the day These Gentle Wounds comes out, I will be the first in line to get my own copy.
Profile Image for Rachel Solomon.
Author 11 books5,367 followers
January 13, 2014
Emotional, beautifully written debut. Gordie is a character who feels so real, and the boy POV is one of the best I've read in a while. As he lost himself in grief, I ached with him -- that's how deeply the reader is placed in his head. I love reading sibling relationships in YA, and the bond between Gordie and his brother Kevin was both loving and complicated. The romance was also incredibly sincere.

PTSD isn't something that solely affects members of the military. And it's not something that goes away in a month or a year. Helene Dunbar tackled a brave, important topic here, and I can't wait to read more from her.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,765 reviews29 followers
May 3, 2015
This book. My God. Why is everyone not talking about this book?! Why is everyone not READING this book?! I will be raving about this book to anyone who will listen.

READ. THIS. BOOK. Read it.

Also, bring tissues. Every chapter rips your heart out as you watch Gordie try to cope with the terrible incident from his past and the horrors that have carried through to the present. There were times I had to close the book and physically hug it like I wanted to hug Gordie. He is an amazing character...kind and gentle and fragile and broken. And strong...even though he doesn't know it. Beautifully written, tragically real. LOVED IT.
Profile Image for Kristen Lippert-Martin.
Author 2 books125 followers
March 14, 2014
This book is one of those "in a class all by itself" kind of books. The writing is gorgeous, real, moving. The story itself, well, it's as heartbreaking as it gets. If you've ever heard about a family tragedy and wondered, as I often do, "How does a person pick up and go on after that?" then read this book. Gordie is a hero for being the caring, amazing kid he is despite what's happened to him. Reader advisory: read with a huge stash of tissues at the ready. Actually forget that -- make it a beach towel.
Profile Image for Tara.
Author 6 books195 followers
May 8, 2014
This is a heart-wrenching, beautifully-written book. Not the kind that I would normally pick up, but I'm so glad I got the chance to read an ARC! Helene Dunbar has created a one-of-a-kind portrait of a boy in distress who has to dig deep to find the courage and strength to help save himself and someone even more vulnerable than he is from an abusive situation. I know that Gordie's sharply focused story will stay with me for a long time.
Profile Image for Brittany.
725 reviews25 followers
May 15, 2015
I feel like I'm going to carry Gordie with me for a long time. This character was so impactful, that while reading, I found myself thinking about him all throughout the day as if he's real. This book is about perseverance, love trust, and transformation. A book about death, yes, but also a story about a teenage boy, struggling to find a life after a crushing loss. It's beautiful and haunting. Read it. It's spectacular.
Profile Image for Melissa (thereaderandthechef).
529 reviews167 followers
April 15, 2014
When I started reading These Gentle Wounds I felt like if someone spilled a bucket of cold water over my head. Seriously, this book chilled me at the beginning and a little bit more further inside. I liked how Helene Dunbar wrote this story with stark honesty without sugarcoating the after effects of traumatizing events. Although it is sad, I think this is the best way to understand what the characters are really going through.

Okay, maybe "understand" is a strong word. Try to understand works better here. I think I will never fully get what Gordie and the rest of the characters lived through, and I seriously don't wish to ever be in their positions. I admire their strength, bravery and support towards each other though. It's amazing even when everything is going so wrong. A good example of this is the relationship between Gordie and his half-brother, Kevin. I think it's so beautiful! It's absolutely my favorite part of the story because their bond is so strong and pure. I just wish Kevin's dad would have been this way with both of them too.

There's also a little bit of romance inside this book that will surely bring out a smile in your face. I smiled several times actually. After all, These Gentle Wounds is in a way a coming of age book. For Gordie, this finally is something bright to look forward to even when everything else is falling apart.

All in all, I'm glad I had the chance to read These Gentle Wounds and to have met Gordie. It wasn't very gentle to my heart but I believe it's a great read. I encourage you to give this book a try, and to not be afraid of getting a bit hurt in the process. It's worth it in the end.

*This review first appeared at The Reader and the Chef and it was made possible thanks to a free review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Hallie.
954 reviews123 followers
June 21, 2014
A little out-of-step here, but this was so unrelentingly horrific that I almost rebelled by the end. Not that such an appalling combination of things was impossible for one kid to have experienced, sadly, but frankly, I didn't think he'd be capable of the kinds of relationships he stumblingly builds. (Also, the romance? Nice but I didn't quite buy it.) It's always hard being inside the head of someone who's unable *and* unwilling to communicate, and the trope of "I can't tell anyone about this, or they'd hate me forever" when the reader knows perfectly well that that's not the reaction the person would get, is one I find extraordinarily difficult. This is, of course, meant to be a very difficult read, but all the same, enough finally got to be too much.

I'm probably comparing this in some way with Pointe, although I didn't realise I was until I started writing this up, and Pointe is the winner in every way. Equally difficult, agonizingly so, in fact, but it achieves its power by a lightness of touch, rather than a bludgeoning. I know it's probably not fair, but I also have a bit of a bias against YA novels that show therapists/counselors/mental health institutions in a totally negative light. This certainly does that, although admittedly, the institution is only a threat (manipulated by the most evil character imaginable, and warned of by Gordie's loving if flawed brother).
Profile Image for Cassandra.
671 reviews86 followers
September 10, 2016
"I'm really, really tired of the past"

Alright guys; time to admit something embarrassing. You know that feeling when you're book shopping on Amazon, and it's the wee hours of the morning, and you feel absolutely invincible? That's how I snagged a copy of this book. I binge bought books on Amazon at three am, and this book had caught my interest.

I am so freaking glad I did. This book did so many things right. It handled an array of dark and deep topic manners in a realistic way that wasn't romanticized. Even though I still enjoy YA with deep and dark themes that's romanticized, it's like a breath a fresh air when it isn't. There was nothing sugar-coated about what was happening to Gordie, and to be honest, I spent a lot of time squirming in my seat.

I'm going to keep this spoiler free, since I really want those of you who this interests to pick it up. I haven't read a novel that hits PTSD, anxiety, child abuse, mental illness, or makeshift families so realistically but fantastically in ages.

Please just read this. This book is so important and while it's not in the top ten teen reads lists yet, it should be.
Profile Image for Eric.
5 reviews
July 13, 2014
I loved this book! It accurately depicts a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how they are finally able to begin over coming it. Another thing, more than one person saved him. In several books, protagonists are always saved by a single person, typically a romantic interest, but in These Gentle Wounds, several people help him along the way and he is able to feel free once again. The writing also seemed incredibly believable and the tone had great darker undertones, which I loved. For her debut novel, Helene Dunbar did an amazing job, from symbolism to tone. I would definitely recommend this if you like darker reads, it was incredible.
Profile Image for Lisa Maxwell.
Author 12 books1,970 followers
February 4, 2014
Wow. Where to begin?
THESE GENTLE WOUNDS is a heartbreak of a book, and I mean that in the best possible way. From page one, it grabs you, winds itself around you, and refuses to let go. This book is so beautifully written--its understated prose evokes such pain and heartache with such subtlety. If you love beautifully written, emotionally driven contemporary YA, you will adore this book. It's the kind of book that stays with you, long after you close it and set it aside.
Profile Image for Chris Struyk-Bonn.
Author 3 books21 followers
August 4, 2016
Amazing book. Dunbar has done an incredible job of entering the head of someone who has experienced a traumatic event and deals with the aftermath on a daily basis. I completely believed Gordie's response to the life-altering moment when his mother drove he and his siblings into the river. The book is riveting both emotionally and psychologically.
Profile Image for Amy.
197 reviews189 followers
January 13, 2014
Definitely one of my favorites. I love Dunbar's writing style and heart wrenching story.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
344 reviews29 followers
February 7, 2018
"Just because you think you need something doesn't mean you do."

"You know, to be with someone and think you'll be with them for the rest of your life. I mean, how do you know?"

"Everything finally feels like it's where it belongs."
Profile Image for Fadzlishah Johanabas.
Author 13 books42 followers
November 3, 2014
That feeling when your instinct urges you to buy a random book that you come across, and you end up falling in love...it's indescribable.

As usual, I was at Kinokuniya, looking for the final installment of the KL Noir series. Out of habit, I browsed the Young Adult section, and I came across this book. These Gentle Wounds. How can you not fall in love with the title alone? Perfect, perfect title for a brilliantly written book.

These Gentle Wounds (I can never grow tired writing and saying the book title) is a debut novel by Helene Dunbar, and I'll say right from the start, she's one to look out for. The book starts like this:



ONE



The last thing I saw before he car hit the water was an eagle pasted against the sky.

And what I remember is this: his tapered wings filled the width of the dirty window; the air held him up with the promise of magic; he looked free.

I used to dream about that bird.

But I don't have dreams anymore.

All I have are memories.




Bam! If the title is not enough to pull you in, the opening passages will do the work. The novel centers around Gordie "Ice" Allen, a fifteen-year-old boy who survived after his mother drove her car into a river five years back, with him and his three younger siblings in it. All he has left is his older half-brother Kevin who shared the same mother. His abusive father disappeared after the funeral, and now all Gordie wants is a semblance of normalcy.

But what is normal when you have to live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that looms over you every single day for the past five years? This is the basis for the story arc in These Gentle Wounds.

Far off in the distance, a yellow balloon rises in the sky. Some kid must have let go of it. I wish so badly I could catch the string in my hand and let it pull me away.

It's words like these that pull you in deeper. There's an understated brilliance in Ms Dunbar's writing. The words do not distract you by their beauty, but lends to the broken beauty that is Gordie. The words are not big, but they ring true. They make Gordie and his brother Kevin into flesh and bones, and you can't help but feel the urge to hug them close and tell them that everything's going to be okay, because they need to know that.


Because you need them to know that.

Because you need to know that.

Before the event that forever altered his life, Gordie's father wanted him to be a hockey star. Now that his father is out of the picture, ice hockey becomes his salvation. That is, until his father enters the picture and wants him back. Just when he's finally doing okay, with a potential love interest in the new girl Sarah Miller, his life starts to spin out of control again.

Kevin, equally broken, has always been Gordie's anchor, his strength. When Sarah enters the equation, he feels as though his role as the guardian is being replaced, and he lashes out. The darker side of him surfaces, but his character is so compelling that you feel for him.

Sarah, despite her being a troubled child, always in the shadows of her elder brother, and everything a rebellious teenager is, becomes perfection in comparison. I love how Ms Dunbar doesn' make her that unobtainable queen bee. I love how she is a just a regular girl who knows what she wants. And the romance between Sarah and Gordie is tentative, just hinted at. I love this.

The one criticism that I have is about Jordan who, when compared to the main characters, isn't fully fleshed out, becomes a plot device. For someone who plays a pivotal role in motivating Gordie's actions, he is sorely underdeveloped and underplayed.

In an umbrella-genre that's inundated with selfish, insecure teenagers whose only thoughts are how to make a guy/girl fall in love with them, a novel about a boy dealing with PTSD is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

May These Gentle Wounds help kids who need to know that they deserve to be loved, that they deserve to live.

May Ms Dunbar keep producing more important works like this.
Profile Image for Just a person .
995 reviews294 followers
May 5, 2014
I wanted to read this one because I needed to know more about Gordie and what his dramatic past was that wounded him on the inside. I also like to read a book from a male POV, and see how Gordie deals with it and tries to move on with his life.

The brotherly relationship with Kevin was awesome and I loved how that, and themes of family whether close, coming back into life, forgiveness, being hurt, and all that comes with letting people into our hearts and the messiest and most emotional parts of lives.

The inclusion of hockey also made me happy. I enjoy the Canes, and going to games, talking about hockey, watching it and getting into the head of a hockey player. How it centers him and focuses on the puck and stopping it is an interesting way to deal and help him with his mind and anxiety/flashbacks.

It is hard watching him do what he calls his spins, he relives the Day, as he called it, that his mom tried to kill him, and succeeded in killing herself and other kids, he thinks to get back at his dad. He doesn't want to die, but he claws at the walls, chews on things, has a desire to try to fly and step off the roof. Kevin does everything he can to protect and ground Gordie. But we see glimpses of violence from him, and instability and that makes Kevin's character even more well rounded and although its hard to read, we know that he never puts himself first, but he has learned to change himself a little at a time, but he too, has a hard road ahead for healing.

Nothing is sugar coated or glossed over. We see chilling and scary glimpses from the childhood of Kevin and Gordie. There is abuse, and a mother who does unthinkable things. I can't imagine her mindset but I obvu\obviously wish she could have gotten out of the relationship with Gordie's father for her sake and the kids and gotten help. But it didn't work that way and Gordie lives with the pain, fear, guilt, abandonment, and trauma everyday.

When his dad comes back in the picture, it is hard not to be angry and want justice served to him. Gordie's memories of him, and the relationship between his dad and mom wasn't positive, and its hard to reconcile when you are a teen and a parent suddenly wants back in your life.

The romance in this one made me smile. It was cute and sweet. I was so glad that Sarah accepted Gordie as he was and saw through to what Gordie thought that only Kevin would. I love their stark conversations, the honesty, and the ability to just be quiet and together when Gordie couldn't find his words or spun a bit.

The synopsis really got to me and it is so true. Not to minimize outward physical disabilities, but if you are missing an arm, somehow people can understand that to some degree... they could try to do things one handed for a bit to get a perspective of what he feels... But if it is mental illness, whether depression, anxiety or what I believe is PTSD with Gordie. If your brain doesn't work right, you really can't understand, just get over it, mind over matter, just do this, just do that is heard all too often, when it is not that simple.

It was amazing and heartbreaking, emotional and handles all of these subjects so well. I devour reads like this.



Bottom Line: Chilling, gritty powerful story about a boy trying to heal after traumatic event.
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