The Way It Hurts – Patty Blount – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 August 2017
Music is Elijah’s life. His band plays loud and hard, and he’ll do anything to get them a big break. He needs that success to help take care of his sister, who has special needs. So he’d rather be practicing when his friends drag him to a musical in the next town…until the lead starts to sing.
Kristen dreams of a career on stage like her grandmother’s. She knows she needs an edge to get into a competitive theater program―and being the star in her high school musical isn’t going to cut it. The applause and the attention only encourage her to work harder.
Elijah can’t take his eyes off of Kristen’s performance, and his swooning face is captured on camera and posted with an out-of-context comment. It goes viral. Suddenly, Elijah and Kristen are in a new spotlight as the online backlash spins out of control. And the consequences are bigger than they both could have ever imagined because these threats don’t stay online…they follow them into real life.
The Way It Hurts is a story about music and the passion to take that music to as many people as possible. It is also a story about the impact of social media. The Way It Hurts is a novel with plenty of drama and characters with very strong emotions.
Kristin is counting on a summer music program to give her an edge when it comes time for her conservatory application. For Kristin, singing, performing, and dancing is everything. Elijah wants to take his heavy metal band all the way. He dreams of fame. When he sees Kristin perform, he knows her voice could be the thing to promote his band. He posts a picture of her and a comment about wanting her in his band. But convincing Kristin to sing with them might be hard after she discovers he is the one she spars with online and his post quickly sparks a derogatory backlash. But Kristin decides that performing with Ride Out could benefit her, and so starts to use the social media outcry to her own advantage. But when the comments online become increasingly sinister and her relationship with Elijah’s band mates struggles from the beginning, Elijah and Kristin will have to decide how much they will risk for what they want.
Firstly, let me state that I found the synopsis originally provided with this book misleading. There is no picture taken of Eli’s swooning face, he takes a photo of Kristen and posts his own, easily misconstrued, comment. And I don’t think Elijah and Kristen finds themselves in the midst of a social media maelstrom – they have a large part in creating it. As it escalates, Kristin is forced to bear the brunt of rude comments and disgusting photos and suggestions, which Elijah largely dismisses until it begins to effect him.
There is no shortage of drama in this book. The focus of the book is predominately on music and Elijah’s band. There are practice sessions, song writing, performances, and plenty of band promotion, which is what starts the problems on social media. This will all, perhaps, appeal to readers who enjoy this side of the music industry, particularly heavy metal.
I believe the underlying theme of this novel is so important. Social media and the way it can be used to both help and hurt is a huge issue, as is understanding staying safe on social networks. However, while I think The Way It Hurts raises these issues, I do not believe that it was consistent in its message. Elijah remains largely oblivious to the impact of his comments and postings. When Kristin tries to address the concerns she has, he brushes her off. Unfortunately, Kristin very easily becomes distracted by Elijah, one minute angry at him because he is not listening to her and then suddenly over her anger because he has a soft look in his eyes. Because of this, I felt that the issues of online safety were not truly addressed. It quickly becomes a background issue to the band and relationship drama.
Further, I am uncertain about what messages this book was trying to send about social media. How the characters deal with the backlash might be one solution, it doesn’t provide a solution to staying safe while still partaking in online social media forums. A secondary character points out to Elijah his part in starting and perpetuating the backlash against Kristin, but this only seems to sink in because the outcry began to impact his sister. I’m sure there any many interpretations that could be taken from the characters and their actions, but I was left feeling unresolved and uncertain about the book’s position and how positive it is.
Elijah’s sister was, I thought, a beautiful and important addition to the story, as was the support for those with Autism and the people who care for them, as was the discussion around home care verses institutional care.
Kristin and Elijah spend a lot of time fighting, Kristin and Elijiah are both very self confident and opinionated, but there are some sweet moments when they put everything aside and support each other. Their romance remains – for a large portion of the book – as an impossibility, which raises the tension. However, this also creates some jealousy. On that note, seriously, why must we resort to name calling when another girl is talking to a guy you like!? Not cool. I don’t care if that’s what authors think teenagers really do! Let’s not promote it.
The epilogue just made me angry, so I won’t address my concerns here at length, let me just say, wouldn’t life be nice if everything worked out like that, but I didn’t find it helpful or particularly relevant, but perhaps it is nice if you are promoting the message that dreams can be achieved.
I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy music, the creation of music and the fame to which that can lead, or for readers who enjoy books with lots of drama and conflict between characters.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Music, bullying, online harassment, heavy metal music, bands, singing, social media, relationships.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Very frequent coarse language, f*** (98), sh** (81), ska** (2), di** (10), bit** (11), as* (21), sash*** (12). Strong sexual references and innuendo, online sexual harassment.
Published: 1 August 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 352 pages.