by Susan Shaw

ISBN-10: 0525478299

To Tracy, safe means having Mama close by. Years after her mother's death, Tracy still feels her presence. But the moment Tracy is forced into a car as she is walking home from school one day, safe is ripped away. In the aftermath of an unspeakable crime, thirteen-year-old Tracy must fight her way back to safety and find comfort in her mother's memory once again.

A raw and moving story of a young rape victim's journey toward healing, empowered by poetry and music, family and friends.


In this extraordinarily tender novel, Shaw (The Boy from the Basement) eloquently encapsulates what it feels like to be a victim of rape. On the last day of seventh grade, Tracy is brutally assaulted by an older boy she knows. From that day on, even after her attacker is arrested and pleads guilty, she has trouble believing she is safe. Worse, she can no longer find any comfort in her memories of her mother, who died when Tracy was only three. “I couldn't even think of Mama and the yellow rose and the yellow dress or the way her stories felt.... How could I fix the shattered piece?” Feeling unprotected, disconnected from her once-happy childhood and alone, Tracy stays indoors for almost the entire summer, unable to face unknown horrors. Going to a therapist doesn't help, although she does find some relief when she practices the piano. Soon music becomes the center of her days, distracting her from scary thoughts but also further isolating her from friends. Intimate, first-person narrative honestly expresses Tracy's full range of emotions as well as her state of paralysis, unable to think about her attack or move past it. The author adroitly avoids spelling out the particulars of the rape, conveying its impact through Tracy's conscious or subconscious choice to try to blank out the details. Readers may find themselves so engrossed in Tracy's trauma that they might have trouble putting the book down until Tracy finally comes to terms with her experiences.
Thirteen-year-old Tracy is five-foot-nine and, in her own words, looks mature. As she walks home from school on the last day of seventh grade, the older brother of a boy she knows throws her in his car. She struggles through long, lonely, and cold months before she can even say what happened next: rape. What is equally frightening to Tracy is feeling she has lost her connection with her mother, who died ten years before but whose visits on moonbeams in the night help Tracy feel loved and safe. Those visits vanish after she is raped and beaten, so Tracy shuts herself away from everyone but her father and her piano. She discovers that she can float away on music and begins to work seven hours a day playing and composing. The rapist is caught and offers a confession, but on the day he is to enter his plea in court, Tracy panics and runs away. The perseverance of her friends, the rapist's guilty plea, and the discovery of a new therapist all finally place Tracy on the path to healing. This novel shares many themes with Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999/VOYA December 1999), although Tracy seems significantly younger than Anderson's protagonist and has a much more involved and sympathetic father who struggles to help his daughter. Tracy's deliberate decisions to cut herself off from others, her refusal to deal with what happened, and her solace in music all ring true. It is a sensitively written story on a difficult subject and another book that will help to give voice to and understanding on a topic too often ignored.
Compelling and affecting.