Author: Christa Desir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: recipe-for-awesomesauce, realistic-fiction
From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair. Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just "Gannon" to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach. Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being. Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief. But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she's standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She's given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test. Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.
I do think that Christa Desir could actually write an honest love story that people would sing ballads about in centuries to come if she, you know, set out to bring hearts together as opposed to destroying them the world throughout. Her stories, they all start in this slightly skewed, seemingly sunny place, darker things shooed away, only intimated, or well move into such a plight before comes a downward spiral.
Bleed Like Me is the story of a girl, neglected and browbeaten and screwed, who falls for a controlling, manipulative, broken boy and the ruinations that ensue, shattered lives in exhibit. Neither of them is a likable character, depending on whatever your definition is; neither of them is to be hated, not even the guy. Their relationship suffers all the more for the vacuum in which they isolate its development, reaching out only to reinforce their bond by breaking off with all that stands outside. Their story is not a lesson. It’s a view, not one I particularly enjoyed at the end of the
Desir’s outline is written in such a manner that has you scrambling, itching, beating against a wall because although it’s not exactly foreshadowing, it creates a similar impact, with that tantalizing hope the character believe in, of a happily-ever-after in conflict with what you foresee, and the author knows for it comes out in her prose that bleeds for her and him, bleeds like they do.
From the very commencement of their reluctant romance, obsession is insinuated and control observed in his character. But it’s such a tiny thing, in the vast scope and endlessness of who he is, could be. And I, right there along with Gannon, fell for Michael, looking at these signs that certainly didn’t portend a good outcome but paying no heed. I loved him, I was her and loved her, despite how horrible they were as persons. I was right there in the hardware store, hospital, at home as they planned, kissed, consoled and forgot the entire miserable world, and I partook of that as well. That was the magic of Bleed Like Me, of Christa Desir, before everything started to fall apart. Hell, even as it did, I held on for a while.
I keep mentioning that Gannon wasn’t the villain for me. He wasn’t. I didn’t hate him; despite how, as towards the end, I wished for her to run away, escape to a less grim reality that awaited her on the other side, devoid of him. Pity was to be for him, pain and anger and suffocation and grief implausible truths which only came to light when he was not around. He evoked an entire spectrum of emotions, many which didn’t reconcile, not with each other or with me. It still hurts a bit.
There is the nebulous “them” however, whom I hate. In her previous book, as well, there were “they” to be hated; vehemence not to be directed at anyone else the protagonist knew, all of them with their complications and complexities and messes, as is the case here. “They” are never there. In this anonymity, I perhaps also fail to hold accountable those persons I should. But this isn’t about me, nor my failures as a potential judge/jury/legislator (neeeeeeevver mind that I’ve talking about meself the entire review).
Bleed Like Me has some contentious aspects, triggers maybe. Kittens killed, poor dogs and repeated use of the r-word, but I never saw them as anathema, precisely because they didn’t feel like additives. The book and its characters never set out to be delicate, elegant or decent. Shit is shit from the start and that’s what you get on your platter.
As a story about dysfunctional kids and rushed relationships, Bleeds Like Me excels. As a tale in itself, simply about two kids who were let down enough that they didn’t seek out one more time and found each other, roughened puzzle pieces forcing themselves into a wrecked perfection, it breaks my heart. Again and again, whenever I think of it.
In conclusion, I very nearly cried in the shower, which as you should know, is the sole place for shedding emotional tears and C. Desir has established herself, with her second novel, as one of my favorite authors, meaning she’s started to scare me. A whole lot. That’s kinda my criterion for favorite authors.
If I had a structurally integral heart still, as opposed to the detritus left in the wake of Bleed Like Me, I’d send out replicas to Simon and Schuster for providing review copies. Thank you!