“Everybody else gets to leave a mark on me. Why can’t I leave my own?”
Rating: 4/5 stars
Release Date: October 29, 2019
There’s no such thing as a secret.
SOMETHING happened to Ava. The curving scar on her face is proof. But Ava would rather keep that something hidden—buried deep in her heart and her soul.
She has her best friend Syd, and she has her tattoos—a colorful quilt, like a security blanket, over her whole body—and now, suddenly, she has Hailey. Beautiful, sweet Hailey, who seems to like Ava as much as she likes her. And Ava isn’t letting anything get in the way of finally, finally seeking peace. But in the woods on the outskirts of town, the traces of someone else’s secrets lie frozen, awaiting Ava’s discovery—and what Ava finds threatens to topple the carefully-constructed wall of normalcy that she’s spent years building. Secrets leave scars. But when the secret in question is not your own—do you ignore the truth and walk away? Or do you uncover it from its shallow grave, and let it reopen old wounds—wounds that have finally begun to heal?
tw: rape, PTSD, non-sexual violence
My first Goodread’s update about this book was “this is gonna hurt”, and boy was I right. All the Things We Do in the Dark came across my radar when I saw it pitched as The Lovely Bones meets Sadie. Normally, I try not to let the when X meets Y comparison be the reason I pick up books, but I mean, how I could I not for this one? This book centers largely around rape and PTSD and it’s important that you go into this one understanding that and in that you’re in the correct headspace for it. While the rape scene is not discussed in full detail it is still extremely unsettling, mainly because Ava, the MC, was nine when it happened. But the quotes in this book y’all, oooof they hit SO HARD. This is a story about survival, rape culture, moving forward after unimaginable trauma, and doing what we think is the best for our own healing purposes, even if it may be hurting us instead of helping us.
Here’s a little example on the quotes hitting hard in this book:
“I had a “good” rape. The kind where I was young enough that it was definitely not my fault. I was not sexy enough for people to think I might have secretly wanted it. My rape was committed by a pyscho-stranger-bad-man-not-anybody-nice-we-know.
Extremely not my fault.
Of course it’s never anyones fault.”
“I’m obligated to say it out loud for everyone who can’t. For the ones who don’t have bulletproof stories even though we we’re all equal: something evil happened, and it happened to us. We didn’t make that evil happen.”
Those two specific quotes come within the first 2% of the book…so yeah, it hurt. Ava, has lived her life completely in control of everything since her rape. She never leaves the house alone, has one best friend who is the only person (besides the cops and her mother) that knows the truth about what happened to her and her giant scar on her face, and has a whole slew of tattoos that SHE chose to put on her body. It’s very apparent that even though Ava’s rape happened several years ago she is still dealing with PTSD and understandably so. She’s compartmentalized a lot of things in her life since the rape to keep herself in control and feeling safe, until one day after a fight with her best friend she’s walking home and finds a body of a dead girl in the woods.
You would think that a normal reaction to finding a dead body would be to call the police, however, that’s the exact opposite of what Ava does. Her reasoning is literally like a punch in the throat. She’s trying to protect her “Jane Doe” from being picked apart and investigated by the police like she was when she was nine. She thinks that she’s trying to help Jane even though she’s dead and it’s just the most heartbreaking thing ever. This book has a touch of magical realism in it once Ava starts to see Jane and without saying too much, Jane helps her track down her murderer. All the while this is happening Ava meets a girl named Hailey and starts to develop feelings for her which is something she’s never let herself experience before. Put all of this together and Ava is starting to lose control over what was her “normal” for years since her rape.
All in all, even though the overall theme of this was heavy I loved the message that this story conveys. We all deal with trauma and grief in different ways and sometimes it’s easier to make the choices that will end up hurting us for a quick fix of how we feel vs. taking the long road, asking for help, and working for a better tomorrow. If you think you’re in an okay headspace for this one I highly recommend giving it a go!