Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole

Published: March 14, 2023

Labyrinth Road

Genre: Teen & Young Adult Poetry

Pages: 382

KKECReads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received a copy of this book for free, and I leave my review voluntarily.

Olivia A. Cole is a writer from Louisville, Kentucky. Her essays have been published by Bitch Media, Real Simple, the Los Angeles Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Gay Mag, and more. She teaches creative writing at Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, where she guides her students through not only poetry and fiction but also considerations of the world and who they are in it. She is the author of several books for children and adults.

Sixteen-year-old Alicia Rivers has a reputation that precedes her. But there’s more to her story than the whispers that follow her throughout the hallways at school—whispers that splinter into a million different insults that really mean: a girl who has had sex. But what her classmates don’t know is that Alicia was sexually abused by a popular teacher, and that trauma has rewritten every cell in her body into someone she doesn’t recognize. To the world around her, she’s been cast, like the mythical Medusa, as not the victim but the monster of her own story: the slut who asked for it.

Alicia was abandoned by her best friend, quit the track team, and now spends her days in detention feeling isolated and invisible. When mysterious letters left in her locker hint at another victim, Alicia struggles to keep up the walls she’s built around her trauma. At the same time, her growing attraction to a new girl in school makes her question what those walls are really keeping out.

“Ever since last year, everything sounds like justice or its burning absence.”

Alicia is drowning in a secret so vile it’s changed who she is. She does things to help her escape, even if they aren’t always things she wants. When she lets her guard down, she meets some people who shine a light in her heart and help clear away the shadows.

This was beautiful, haunting, and brilliantly done. I have never read a novel written like this, and I found the style so powerful. I loved the community Alicia found, despite not looking. And the friendships that blossomed from the depths.

The power of unity is so precious in this book, and the feeling of acceptance is strong. I loved the themes and found the characters brilliantly curated.

Most women will identify with some if not all, aspects of Alicia. Sadly, too many of us have had that door closed and have had to tread the darkness of shame and self-loathing.

I loved the friends Alicia found in this book. And I love the way they saw each other. Human. Flawed but worthy. The bonds were beautiful, and the strength was real.

I loved the use of imagery in this book, and the way running was associated with finding freedom but also avoidance. The use of distraction was clever and heartbreaking.

This was a powerful book, and the messages contained within these poetic lines are so important. Scream. Be loud. Be seen. It is okay to take up space and be visible.

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