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Gemma: A Novel
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Gemma: A Novel

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  723 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
After Hazen Wood kidnaps twelve-year-old Gemma Sullivan, the two embark upon a cross-country journey that tests the limits of Gemma's endurance. In scenes of physical and sexual violence, Hazen tries to destroy the young girl's will. When she does manage to escape he drags her back and threatens to have her arrested for the violent acts he performs. It is only Gemma's re
Paperback, 268 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published October 1st 2006)
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Story Overview

Gemma Sullivan is a 12-year-old girl who hides her interest in school but secretly loves learning. She does her best to make a life for herself, despite her neglectful, alcoholic mother and the unwanted attentions of her mother's boyfriend Buddy. Buddy has been forcing Gemma to have sex with him since she was 7 years old and has convinced her that it must be kept secret or she will go to jail. Withdrawn and friendless, Gemma dreams of having a normal life with a normal mother and a
Nov 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, first-reads
Note: I won this book free through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway, which had no influence over my rating or review. It can also be found here:

Haunting, brutal and realistic. Tilly's stark, punctuated writing style suits both protagonists well in this novel. At first I didn't like or understand Gemma at all, until her abuse comes to light in an almost off-hand way and all of a sudden. Which may be how abuse really happens in real life, so fitting. As the story went on, I
I hate to start a review with a warning, but I feel I need to - this is a graphic, explicit, disturbing book. Meg Tilly holds nothing back, so if you are easily upset by child sexual abuse, please seriously consider whether this book is for you. On the other hand, if you are a reader of 'tough issues' books, this is a book that will stretch you to the limits.

Gemma herself is the bright shining light of this book - right from the beginning I adored her stream of consciousness ramblings, positive
Laura Scarcello
I recieved this book as a Goodreads Firstread. It's about what you expect for "abuse" fiction. Meg Tilly suffered some of the same horrors as her narrator, Gemma, so obviously has the emotion perfect. However, the voice of the writing is off kilter. The book is a first person narrative by 12 year old Gemma, but there is no way that you'd mistake her vioce for anyone under 30. I think the author would be better off setting up a prologue where "Gemma" admits to re-narrating her childhood during he ...more
Mar 10, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sabrina Rutter
I knew going into this I was going to be reading about a terrible subject. That's fine since I read a lot of true life stories about abuse, but this was very graphic. So graphic I thought for sure this couldn't be a young adult novel, but it is.
I didn't care to much for the writing style. An example is the word "thinking" written as "thinging". I also didn't like the fact that Tilly would write as though it were in the present moment and then switch the next sentence as if it were past tense. Be
Jan 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Loveliest Evaris
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 26, 2009 rated it did not like it
One star means 'didn't like it'. That's putting it mildly! I would like to rate it NO star. If I hadn't won this book, thus having to write a review, I would never have finished it. Too graphic and disturbing.
May 02, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did NOT like this book. At first, it was kinda good, but after a while it got worse and worse. It's about this girl named Gemma, and the book was written in a southern accent so it's safe you say that they're in a southern state. Anyway, Gemma is described to be a loner at her school, but not because people don't like her, but because she chooses to be. Her alchohlic mom's boyfriend, Billy, molests her anytime he can. She's 12 and she said it's been happening since she was 8. She tried to tell ...more
Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner)
Nov 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People with a strong stomach
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gemma is a compelling story by author/actor Meg Tilly, who herself suffered abuse at the hands of adults she trusted. I found the story almost intoxicating and difficult to put down. At the same time I was sickened by the cruelty and descriptions of abuse, I was inspired by the small voice of a very brave girl who suffered, yet never lost her hope for a life in which someone would care.

I received a free copy of Gemma through Goodreads First Reads. If I had seen Gemma in a bookstore, I probably
Eva Leger
Nov 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I've been meaning to read this for a few years at least and it's been sitting here for about that long. I finally picked it up because a friend thought she may want to read it. I'm glad I read it so now it's off my shelf. But I'm not glad I read it because it's so great. It's not as great as people say.
I think what has people saying it's so great is how graphic it is.

**Hear me out.**

Most books aren't as graphic as this. In this way it's somewhat unique. So, it hits harder because of that alone
Jennifer Wardrip
Jan 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Reviewed by Ashley B for

Twelve-year-old Gemma is enjoying her young life on the outside, but she has a secret. She is being sexually abused by Buddy, her mother's boyfriend. He sells her out to Hazen Woods, who pays $100 to have sex with Gemma.

Hazen, later on, kidnaps Gemma, and they drove all over the country. She tried to get away, but he always found her. She gave up. Nobody would listen if she asked for help; no one would help her. She can't tell anyone anything, because Bud
Aug 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was disturbing. For obvious reasons (it's the story of a little girl's kidnapping by her mother's abusive boyfriend's friend who is convinced the little girl is in love with him) and not so obvious reasons. Gemma's life is a laundry list of bad from the gate, and she does have good things in her life, she's crazy smart and she's got a new pet turtle that she loves, but that doesn't mean the bad things aren't really bad. And the villain in the story is the most appalling individual I've ...more
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the most graphic story that I have ever read. Some parts were so intense that it was hard to get through. It was written from two different viewpoints. That was interesting to read about the different perspectives. Gemma was very naive and confused about it all, as is expected since she is a child. What really got me about her situation was that she thought that she would go to jail if Buddy or Hazen was caught. Hazen knew this so he took advantage of it, by reminding her every chance h ...more
V Nerd
Wow this one was a tough one to read, especially as it was on audio and you can't skip.
The narrator was excellent and depicted a 12 year old girl down to a tee in how she spoke about things.
Gemma (12) has a hard life, she is already being abused by Buddy her mother's boyfriend, so she knows that one day when he meets her after school something is wrong, but he tells her that he has got a job for her, and she thinks this is great, especially when they go to Denny's and she thinks she is going to
Dana Nucera
Sep 13, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sorry, I have to say I did not enjoy this book at all. I got nothing out of it other than being reminded again how sick people are out there. I like to think a 12 year old would have enough sense to grab a police officer, or someone that could help her. There were too many loopholes in this story, and on top of that reading the brutal treatment of a child, or anyone for that matter, is just not enjoyable. I know that stuff exists, I just don't need to read it in a book when I want to enjoy my ti ...more
Gemma is easily one of the most difficult books I have ever read. Even harder because I was actually listening to it on a audiobook. You can't skip paragraphs or lines easily on an audiobook so I had to sit there and listen to every word.

I've watched a fair amount of Law & Order SVU and do consider myself not used to but not shocked by most things on this topic. This book gives me a run for my money. I don't think I could recommend it to anyone and I never see myself re-reading it. But it's
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel takes you on a journey that is, at times, near impossible to stomach. No one is comfortable discussing the sexual abuse of a child. It is a topic that is too often swept under the rug for that very reason. Yet, so many young men and women suffer at the hands of sexual abuse and this novel takes a frank and honest look at that topic. It fills the reader with revulsion, fear, and dread then slowly leads the way out to wisdom, strength, and transcendence. I found an honesty in this book ...more
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wow! This book is graphic, gritty, it made me nauseous and it made me cry. Meg Tilly's words are powerful and I think she captured the very real voice of being an innocent, but sexualized 12 year old.

I can guarantee this book will never get the "feel good" book of the year award. But it wasn't written to either.

Meg Tilly writes with a rare honesty that is not found often. She doesn't sugar coat anything and I appreciate that in an author.
Robyn Doerksen
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only book I've ever read in one day. Extremely hard to read at times but because it is so horrific I had to get to the end as soon as possible. I felt Gemma's emotions through the abuse and dealing with the aftermath of her mother, nightmares etc., like I was in her head; not many authors do that for me. So for me this was an emotional, tense read the entire time. Hard to say the book is 'good' because the content is brutal, if that makes any sense.
Jun 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A hard book to read because of the level of detail but also a book that wises you up to child sexual abuse.

"The U.S. justice department stated in 2002, that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18."

I want to just lay my head down and cry for these children.
Tammy Strickler
It was a tough read, but I was so interested in Gemma and how she would conquer her abuser! I knew by her character she would get free, I just didn't know how she would do it. I am glad I stuck with it till the end and found Gemma to be a tough and determined young girl, yet she still seemed to have some innocence and need to be loved. Just like us all!
Mar 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with an interest in sex crimes
This book is very graphic. It's the story of a small girl's kidnapping and subsequent repeated rapes. It's told from the perspective of both the captor and the victim. I read this book in one day and it left me drained and tainted just from knowing that somewhere such a thing is really occurring.
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, I liked how Gemma became stronger and more determined. I would have rated it higher had we know what happened after her testimony in court! ☺ ...more
The Great Tapeworm of Arrakis
Horrifying, disgusting, powerful. A very important novel, but by no means a pleasant or enjoyable read.
Stephanie Loy Son
I first picked up this book at Chapters because it was on those "to read" tables and I thought I would give it a go. So I borrowed it from the library and was glad to have saved $20. "Gemma" is about a twelve year old girl named Gemma who is kidnapped and sexually abused by an obsessed man named Hazen. The novel is awfully graphic and can be extremely uncomfortable sometimes. It's eye opening to the abuse that is going on right now anywhere in the world.

What I liked the most about this book was
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a very brutal book, which deals with the continued sexual abuse of a young girl not yet a teenager. Tilly tells the story from two points of view, first person for the protagonist, Gemma, and third for occasional interjections by her kidnapper, a man her mother's boyfriend once pimped her out to, 37-year-old Hazen.

Hazen is a character who makes Mr. Harvey from "The Lovely Bones" almost look like Mr. Rogers. At least Harvey had occasional doubts. He was also painstakingly aware of the fac
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Meg Tilly is a Canadian-American actress and novelist. She is best known for her performances in "The Big Chill" (1983), "Agnes of God" (1985), "Valmont" (1989), and the television series "Bomb Girls" (2012–13). Tilly received an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award in 1986 for her work in "Agnes of God", and the Leo Award in 2013 for her lead role in "Bomb Girls". Tilly has written f ...more
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