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Etched on Me [Paperback]

Jenn Crowell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2014
On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home-where her father had spent years sexually abusing her-and that she now spends her afternoons working in a fish and chip shop and her nights in a dingy hostel. Nor does anyone know that she's secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism…until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital. Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities; overcoming her traumatic memories, finding the support of a surrogate family and a pioneering therapist, even falling in love with a fellow patient. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story-until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the many gains she has made and the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn daughter.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: ATRIA BOOKS (1 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476739064
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476739069
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 843,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jenn Crowell is the critically-acclaimed author of the novels NECESSARY MADNESS (Putnam, 1997), a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers selection, and LETTING THE BODY LEAD (Putnam Penguin, 2002). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and is an alumna of the Berlin Film Festival Talent Campus. She lives near Portland, Oregon with her husband and young daughter.

Product Description


"Jenn Crowell has written a miracle of a novel, full of grit and grace; her Lesley Holloway is a character for the ages--wry and whip smart and achingly real. This book will forever be etched upon my heart." --Gayle Brandeis "author of The Book of Dead Birds and winner of the Bellwether Prize "

About the Author

Jenn Crowell is the critically acclaimed author of the novels Necessary Madness and Letting the Body Lead. She holds an MFA in creative writing and lives near Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is etched on me! 4 Feb 2014
By Leah Graham TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Etched On Me is a stunning novel, and it’s all the better because it deals with mental health – a somewhat taboo subject for most people. Lesley’s life has been quite awful, her dad abuses her in the worst way imaginable so when she spots a number for people who can help, she holds onto that like a lifeline until she can use it. And she escapes. But the scars leave their marks and Lesley begins to self harm. Until one day she self harms too far and ends up in hospital. From there, her life Is a whirl of hospitals and trying to get better, and eventually she does, and she even falls pregnant, much to her delight. But social services aren’t happy and Lesley will have to prove herself once again, to prove she can be a good mother.

I know it’s probably cliche to say but Etched On Me has rather etched itself on me; it’s a very special book, and Lesley will stay with me forever. I don’t know much at all about mental health, but after reading Lesley’s story, I have more of an appreciation for people who suffer from mental health disorders. Lesley’s story made me want to cry, it made me deliriously happy, and I championed Lesley from page one. This is a girl to root for, someone who has changed her life, managed to overcome everything that has plagued her and I felt like whooping for joy when I completed the novel, that’s how euphoric I felt having felt like I’d physically been next to Lesley during her struggles and to see her rise like a Phoenix was a beautiful thing to witness.

What really made Etched On Me, though, were all the people who had Lesley’s back!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Exceptionally Well Written Look Inside Mental Illness and Self-Harm 7 Feb 2014
By Stephanie Ward - Published on
'Etched on Me' is a gritty and raw look at the obstacles and internal struggles that people with mental illness must deal with throughout their lives. It tells the story of Lesley Holloway - a teenage girl who finally finds the courage to flee her abusive home, which begins a series of mental illness issues, psychiatric facilities, and finally the fight for her child. Lesley is a very realistic main character for the novel. She's tough, witty, strong, smart, and determined. She also has some real problems - overcoming incest and abuse, mental illness problems, and taking charge of her own life when people want to rip it away from her. The book follows Lesley over the years - chronicling her ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and her struggle for control over her own life. She's a wonderfully written main character who is obviously flawed, but still manages to get the reader on her side cheering her on throughout the book.

I knew before reading this novel that it was loosely based on some of the author's personal experiences with mental illness, and I have to give her serious props for writing about these topics in such a raw and realistic fashion. Not many people have the courage to speak out about mental illness in everyday life - let alone write a novel about it. I've reviewed books before that deal with mental illness and I'm always an advocate for them. I believe that mental illness is still a taboo topic in our society and is filled with stigma. Anyone who stands up and speaks out about it is brave - especially those who have a large impact on people, such as writers like Jenn. I myself suffer from mental illness, including depression and self-harm issues, so reading Lesley's story was very hard for me, as well as really rewarding in the end. The author doesn't sugar coat anything in the book - it's all right out there in the open for all to see. There were parts of the book that were painful for me to read and my heart broke for Lesley, but her stubborn nature and determination were an inspiration.

The story was very well written with exceptional attention to detail along with heartwrenching situations and realistic characters. I was immediately drawn into the book and felt as if I was right alongside Lesley the entire time. The pace was just right - not too fast to blow over the hard stuff, but not too slow that it wallowed either. It definitely deals with difficult topics such as abuse, incest, self harm, and mental illness, but it also shows that one must fight for what they believe in and never give up, no matter the odds against you. Some readers will find the topics in the novel disturbing and possibly too difficult to read about, but those who give it a shot will be rewarded with a profound story of one woman's journey through mental illness. I agree with the statement in the press release that said, "ETCHED ON ME is an ultimately life-affirming story that will deepen readers’ understanding and compassion, and perhaps make them reevaluate preconceptions they might have about women who suffer from mental illness and mothers who, for whatever reason, must fight for custody of their children." Mental illness is a serious topic in our society that often gets shoved under the rug and this novel brings it into the spotlight for everyone to see - in all it's ugly, gritty, and heartbreaking reality. Highly recommended for people who enjoy contemporary fiction and those who are looking for an inspiring story with impeccable writing.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint-hearted, but well worth the read ... 4 Feb 2014
By Caitlin Martin - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Books don't need to be topical or timely to be worth reading, but Etched on Me does benefit from the recent open letter from Dylan Farrow about her own experience with childhood sexual abuse. I applaud any survivor who is able to speak out - I hope she continues to find peace and healing along the way. Etched on Me is timely because it deals frankly and honestly with the long-term consequences of abuse - depression, self-destructive behaviors ranging from cutting to drug addiction to anything else you can imagine, PTSD, and on and on. Trauma can kill, it definitely maims, and the journey and work it takes to deal with its aftermath is long and hard and never-ending and so very worth it.

Etched on Me tells the story of Lesley, a wonderfully realized character who has the courage to leave her home and her abuser, to ask for and receive help, and to begin her own journey to a life independent of the forces that brought her to the asking. In Lesley, Ms. Crowell has created a character who matters, who is real and not beatified, who makes huge mistakes and learns from them, who most of all refuses to sit down and accept a life that is less than it could be. At every turn she proves herself willing to do the work, willing to take the big risks, willing to try to find a life that is happy - as readers we are privileged to journey along with Lesley - she is a character to root for even in her most ambivalent moments. A strong helping of information about the elegance and effectiveness of dialectical behavioral therapeutic techniques and their emphasis on mindfulness and Radical Acceptance (a book worth reading if you're curious about what that might mean) rounds out a story I was glad to read even as it infuriated and challenged me.

We fail ourselves and each other in so many different ways, but books like <i>Etched on Me</i> remind the reader that there is hope and maybe most importantly that we are all people with flaws and agendas and dreams trying to do the best we can (or not). I wouldn't call Etched on Me a feel-good book, but it's a really good one and Lesley has a voice worth hearing. Read this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It may be a little rough for some people, but well worth the read. 4 Feb 2014
By WestMetroMommy - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I'll come right out and say it. This isn't a fun book. It is one of those works that will put the reader through the emotional ringer.

And that is what makes it so good.

Lesley is one of those characters who just sticks with you. She has the sort of inner strength that I wish we all had--she is dealing with some really, really tragic circumstances and somehow, some way, she pulls through. And it is a struggle, there is no doubt about that.

I don't know that much about mental illness, so I have no way of knowing if what Crowell describes in this book is accurate. However, it certainly seems accurate to me. The pain that Lesley experiences is palpable to the reader, even to those who have little experience with anyone who self-harms.

The treatment that Lesley receives regarding the custody of her child seems almost barbaric to me. I doubt this would happen in the United States (not because child welfare is so much better in the US, but rather because it is lacking), but I could believe that it would happen in the United Kingdom. In fact, I found it interesting how involved the child welfare system was in a more socialized medical system. While I don't agree with decisions that were made there, I was impressed that there was a system in place for children before a problem developed.

Along the same lines, I was impressed at how "British" this book sounded. The dialogue was spot on and I never once questioned the authenticity, even though the author is American and lives right here in Portland, Oregon! I think that alone is quite a skill.

I will admit that this is not a book that I would recommend to just anyone. There are some very heavy subjects and I know that it is not everyone's cup of tea. However, for anyone with an open mind and willing to take it on, this is an excellent book!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark & Emotional 11 Feb 2014
By Bookish Things - Published on

Etched on Me is dark, gritty, and emotional. It had me completely crushed, and rooting, for the Lesley throughout the entire book.

Lesley has to overcome so many things in her past. The events that she went through are terrible. I think this character is incredibly strong because she is still mostly present. Lesley goes through ups and downs as she figures out what she needs to do to make sure she will be able to keep her daughter.

Etched on Me starts off little slow, but you get caught up in the whirlwind that has become her life. I love the importance put on family, even if they aren’t your blood relatives. Lesley has an amazing support system, and I wish more teens that deal with the same hardships had that. I also liked getting to see her stays in the different facilities. Each one had their own way of teaching how to handle the things that went wrong in Lesley’s life. Something can be learned in each facility.

If you are ready for an emotional rollercoaster, this book is for you. Get ready to cry, laugh, and want to fight for Lesley.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably well written, this book with knock you for six when you read it 10 Feb 2014
By BookAddictMumma - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Etched on Me is one of these books that I needed to work up the courage to read, I knew it was going to be raw and difficult to get through in places but I was so very glad I read it.

Cromwell, has taken on some high end issues and themes in the book from abuse to depression, shame and the stigma of mental illness. She has written a book that is un-putdownable, a real page turner. This is an extreme physiological thriller that had me hooked from the very beginning. In places I had to put it down as I was that affected buy it I needed to take a break to get my head around what had just happened.

Anyone that can take on this type of book is extremely brave and has to be commended on writing it so raw and poignant. This isn't a light read AT ALL! So if you are looking for one this isn't it this is a book you want to read when you want to be put on an emotional roller coaster, one you want to read when you need to find clarity in your life.

Remarkably well written, this book with knock you for six when you read it, take it all in and you will experience a book that is about the fight of one girls life.
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