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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  145 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In a book that is both urgent and timely, Melissa Ostrom explores the intricacies of shame and victim-blaming that accompany the aftermath of assault.

After surviving an assault at an off-campus party, nineteen-year-old Maggie is escaping her college town, and, because her reporting the crime has led to the expulsion of some popular athletes, many people--in particular, the
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 26th 2019 by Feiwel & Friends
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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
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Unleaving is a thoughtful, contemplative young adult novel centered around 19 year old Maggie as she deals with the aftermath of an on campus rape that resulted in her having to leave college due to the trauma she's experiencing not just from the rape itself but from the cold and callous reactions of the community she lives in.

While staying with her Aunt Wren, Maggie begins to slowly cope with what's happened to her via her blossoming friendship with Linnie, a troubled young woman who is the mot
Brooke — brooklynnnnereads
Nov 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs
Before I get into my thoughts on this novel I want to acknowledge a few content warnings involved in this story surrounding the following topics: Sexual Assault, Rape, Depression, Trauma, PTSD, Suicide and Drug Abuse.

Now, onto my review.

As you can probably ascertain from the content warning, this is a HEAVY novel. Not in page length but in content. I feel that it's probably good to know the depth and heft of this novel prior to reading because if not, you will be surprised (like I was). It's no
Jay G
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my youtube channel:

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review*

19-year old Maggie has decided to leave her college after she is assaulted at an off-campus party by a group of popular jocks. After pressing charges, she leaves her hometown to move in with her recluse Aunt Wren, an artist with a dark past of her own. As time goes on, Maggie begins to cope w
Samantha (WLABB)
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, arcs, contemporary
Maggie was gang raped. Maggie was brave and fought for justice. Maggie became a social pariah, and was forced to leave her home. What happened to Maggie, before and after her assault, was wrong, but leaving her hometown put her on her path to healing.

This was an emotional read, but hopeful. I really appreciated that Ostrom focused on Maggie's recovery. There were flashbacks, which I think were there to help us understand her mental state, but they were not graphic. I didn't feel like I needed a
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Trigger warning for mentions of rape.

Maggie suffered a traumatic event last year - she was raped by multiple guys at her Vermont college during a party. After pressing charges, she deals with harassment all around her from people who either don't believe her and/or don't support her and/or worship the college football player who confessed. To escape the harassment, and to deal with everything, Maggie takes time off of school and goes to upstate New York to stay with her aunt.

This book isn't a
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
DNF at 41%

I feel like I’m breaking girl code with my thoughts about UNLEAVING. I don’t think I’ve ever hated hating a book as much as this.

After being gang raped by popular guys at college, then being targeted by bullies, Maggie flees town to live with her estranged aunt Wren and heal. Except she doesn’t go to therapy, though she had some at home. She doesn’t read rape survivor books or join a support group. Her plan seems to be healing through osmosis.

While I understood Maggie’s struggles, bein
Shaye Miller
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
19-year-old Maggie Arioli is the victim of a gang rape that took place in her small college town, just last year. After her assault, she sought help at the police station and with her college administration. But as the perpetrators were athletic heroes of Carleton College, Maggie was immediately considered an outcast, demonized for tainting the names of the young men in question. In an effort to heal from the trauma and move forward, Maggie is taking a year off from school. With her parents’ ble ...more
Jen L.
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is not about rape. —Well, it is & it isn’t, in the way that an Edith Wharton novel is about manners, or a Harry Potter book is “about” magic. It is the setting, it suffuses the content, but it’s not the subject.

The subject is the recovery from trauma.

While the trauma of rape shares aspects with other survived horrors, it also has its own specific griefs, & author Ostrom approaches all of them with a beautiful delicacy & sensitivity. She doesn’t shy away from the intensity of (Maggie)
Erin Varley
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Unleaving is not my typical read. I usually stick to middle grade, but knowing that I loved Melissa's other book, The Beloved Wild, I knew I had to read this one, as well. Unleaving is contemporary, a study of the human condition. Melissa is a master storyteller- offering her readers more than just a story, but a chance to live and breathe Maggie's journey toward healing. Get it. Read it. And don't be surprised if it stays with you for a long time. ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a book I didn’t realize I needed. It paints a perfect picture of the complexities of being female in today’s culture, of how unlinear processing trauma is, of the power and healing you can get from the places you never expected. I read this book in one sitting, and even though it wasn’t always comfortable, it was amazing. I loved this - easily one of my favorite books I’ve read this April.
Grace P
3.75/5 Stars

As a college student, Maggie falls into the older section of Young Adult fiction, but UNLEAVING does not quite fit the New Adult genre of fiction. While there are mature topics and a higher level of maturity among the characters, this novel includes many common YA themes. One of the most influential and memorable elements of this story is that it does not focus on romance in any way, which is a rarity in the YA genre today. Ostrom instead focuses primarily on Maggie’s healing and the
Despite having almost nothing in common with Ostrom’s other book, The Beloved Wild, Unleaving left me with a similar impression to her debut. Both books are surprisingly quiet, understated, and slow-moving, and the plots themselves are nothing to write home about (which is not to say that Unleaving’s plot is underwhelming or disappointing—if anything, the subject matter is so, so necessary—but the way that it’s explored isn’t especially surprising); the winning moments come from the interaction ...more
Mar 04, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2019-releases, dnf
I attempted to read this, but it's just not holding my attention, so I'm DNFing. It's not bad, I'm just very picky about contemporary novels these days, and it takes something special to keep me reading. I'm sure it's an important book for the right person, and it's definitely a topic that I appreciate an author writing about. It just wasn't for me.

That said, I thought the setting was lovely, as was the voice. You should give it a try if you are into contemporary books about serious topics.

CW: t
Forever Young Adult
Graded By: Stephanie
Cover Story: Big Backpack
BFF Charm: Let Me Love You
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Self-Help
Bonus Factors: Book Club, Family Secrets, Awesome Grownups
Relationship Status: Support Group Buddies

Read the full book report here.
Claire Funk
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
deftly navigates trauma without being overly indulgent and does a good job of showcasing PTSD in survivors accurately!! you could tell there was a lot of care in developing the main character. appreciated how many plot lines/characters there were that were richly developed and didn’t just feel like backdrops in the main character’s life.
Continental Drifter
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys books about people fighting to reclaim their lives after trauma.
This book was intense. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed how it openly discussed difficult concepts, while still feeling real, like life really is...messy. And the way Maggie's own mental state evolves during the book feels authentic, like that's the way a real survivor of rape would behave.

If there's one thing I think may have been a bit too fanciful, too incongruent with our reality, it's the way Linnie's arc ends. Don't get me wrong - Linnie's character is one of the things that turns this book
Amber Christopher,
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Unleaving is a timely reflection of an ongoing societal problem: rape and its aftermath, particularly the complicated matter of healing. Yet Melissa Ostrom's second novel is not a depressing read because she imbues her main character Maggie's struggle to heal with the universal need we all have to heal ourselves and our world. The result is an optimistic view of what humans are capable of accomplishing, even after suffering the worst ordeals.

Maggie is a strong young woman who endures a lot and s
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
Unleaving is a good book to read if you are just starting college or about to start college within the next year. The book described a situation that seems to be the norm of the college lifestyle. Go to a party, meet a guy, and now a victim of date rape. This is a pretty close reflection of the Me Too campaign going on and the moral definitely is that silence is a killer and when the victim no matter the circumstance such as hate from other students going around campus and hateful emails sent, k ...more
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An important topic and well written page turner! Maggie decides to leave her college campus after an off campus assault. She turned in the names of her attackers and is victim shamed for doing so due to the fact that the guilty are popular athletes from the college. She goes to stay with an aunt as she grapples with what happened and deals with anxiety, depression and panic attacks. When she discovers that another girl at the college that had a similar experience emailed her, Maggie must decide ...more
Marsha Rivers
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had a hard time with this one, to be honest. It was well-written – don't get me wrong – but I hated that it needed to be written. I hate what happened to Maggie, what happened to me, and what happens to millions of sexual assault victims daily. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the author's boldness, bravery, and beautiful prose. Exposing dark to light brings healing, somehow – through the grace of our Creator and the empathy of authentic community. Thank God for the Aunt Wrens of the world! ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Review to come.
This is a 3.5 for me, a sophomore effort from the author. Although there are several points at which the pacing of this book seems odd and there are also some strange shifts from one scene to the other, it's still an important and relevant book, given some of the recent conversations about sexual assaults on college campuses. Nineteen-year-old Maggie Arioli has decided to take a break from her college career after having been gang raped at an off-campus party. Maggie chose to report the assault, ...more
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
S Glynn
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
In this timely novel that speaks to the rape culture pervasive in our society, 19-year-old college student Maggie is assaulted at a fraternity party and leaves school and her hometown to escape the vicious backlash by fans of the college football team after several players are expelled. She goes to live with her Aunt Wren, a famous artist who left her family at 18 and remained estranged from both parents and her twin sister, Maggie’s mother Min. Although it’s meant as an escape and a chance to h ...more
Jun 07, 2019 added it
Ostrom is to be commended for courageously choosing a difficult and timely topic that is too frequently minimized or ignored in today’s YA literature. "Unleaving" exemplifies the complex ways in which trauma impacts the individuals, family systems and communities, as well as the intergenerational challenges experienced related to healing. Ostrom achieves a delicate balance of providing enough details to help readers understand the devastation and struggle associated with recovery from rape, with ...more
Karen McKenna
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I know it is a pet peeve of some to start a review by saying I don't normally read young adult, but unfortunately, it is the truth. I try to read it because I am a middle school teacher and want to be able to recommend a broad range to my students. I usually abandon most YA at about 50 pages. I am sensitive to language and not a big fan of romance (especially lust filled) in books.

With all of those confessions out of the way, I could NOT put this book down! There was some language, but I felt i
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book feeling very moved and heartened, with much to ponder. Ostrom has created such vivid characters and a story that is by turns compelling, raw, honest, tender, disturbing, real, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful. It is centered on the character of Maggie, who has gone to live with her aunt in the wake of a year marked by her rape and the fallout she endured from going forward and pressing charges. I won't summarize the plot here, but what struck me most about this superbly ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Unleaving is a strong story of resiliency, family, friendship, and understanding. Maggie is raped in her first year of college and when she speaks up about her rape, her small college town turns on her. Maggie leaves to spend the upcoming year with her Aunt Wren, a potter living on the shores of Lake Ontario. She is surrounded by people who see her strength, but Maggie needs time to see it too. While in the wilds, Maggie also meets her aunts collection of neighbours and friends, and finds hersel ...more
Alicia Charland
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had previously read Ostrom's Beloved Wild (historical fiction) and was impressed that she was able to transition to a totally different genre with Unleaving. Unleaving addresses a difficult contemporary issue and Ostrom mastered it. This was a page turner for me.

Maggie's internal struggle/dialogue after being sexually assaulted drove the story line. That is what drew me in-- it was realistic. Every family is unique and Maggie's is no different. Her parents wanted to help her but were often he
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Melissa Ostrom teaches English literature at Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The Beloved Wild is her YA debut. She lives in Batavia, New York, with her family.

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