Hey guys? If you’re ever in the mood to snark something, don’t choose a book where a girl gets raped by her father. Because really, if there is one topic that everyone (including me) kind of backs away from making light of, it’s childhood sexual abuse. And you know, I can make inappropriate comments about lots of things, but not this. It’s just not fucking funny.
I Never Asked You to Understand Me is yet another novel in the series by Barthe DeClements which started with Nothing’s Fair in the Fifth Grade. Though much of the cast of those earlier books are largely absent from INAYTUM. This book is told from the point of view of 16 year old Dierdre (Didi), who has just been sent to finish school at Cooperation High, the local ‘alternative’ school for bad kids. Didi’s not really bad, you see. She’s all fucked up because her mom is dying of cancer and she has a father who ignores her and a nice but wacky psychic grandmother who feels that mom’s attitude brought cancer on herself.
Didi starts hanging out with a group of kids at “The Coop”, as they call Cooperation High. Stacy (Stacia Reynolds, who we met in DeClements’ previous books), who has a killer body but a cold shoulder, TJ who is drop dead gorgeous and always drop dead stoned, and Larry the only truly ‘bad’ kid in the book. He’s at The Coop after recently getting out of juvie.
Through flashbacks, we learn about Didi’s mother finding out she had cancer at a very advanced stage. Didi began skipping classes, not doing her homework and sassing. So the principal recommends The Coop, which Didi’s dad is far too quick to agree to. When Didi starts at the Coop, her mom is still alive, but barely. The Coop is incredibly touchy-feely and not at all what I’d expect from an alternative school. One day, the students are learning to read auras (way to prepare those delinquents for the real world!) and Didi, who’d learned to read auras from her grandmother notices Stacy lacks an aura because of a grey cloud hovering over her head.
Didi and Stacy become close friends. Didi wants TJ the stoner in a major way and Stacy doesn’t want any boys at all. One night Didi is spending the night at Stacy’s house and Stacy’s dad starts beating the shit out of her mom. Stacy makes it obvious that she hates her father, but when Didi asks if he beats her too, Stacy says no. We learn that Stacy’s dad is a huge perv too; when Didi spends another night, he makes crude comments to Stacy and Didi, suggesting that they’re lesbians. Obviously Didi gets the heebie jeebies (and so do I.)
Didi’s mom dies and she flips out a little. She feels like no one understands her, and she leaves on night to go to TJ’s, who she’d been seeing, but he just wanted to fuck, so she left in a huff. The next day in school, Didi tries speed. Or something…she’s not sure, it’s some pill she bought off Rita the druggie. At a party a few days later, Stacy and Didi are both “blitzed” (I have no idea on what. I think just drunk) and Stacy finally admits to Didi that her dad rapes her.
Didi wants to tell someone, Stacy just wants to run away. Didi agrees to run away with Stacy, with Larry, who’s about to get sent up again. Their stuff is packed, but at the last minute, Didi changes her mind and wants to change her life. She calls her grandmother, who agrees that she can come live with her until she’s finished high school. Didi convinces Stacy to tell someone, so they tell a teacher. The teacher helps and Stacy’s dad gets arrested, and Stacy and her mom are going to get counseling or whatever. Then Didi leaves to live with her Grandmother.
- The orientation teacher at the coop is named Ellen, who Didi describes as “smiley” with an “I love everyone born-again Christian,” look about her.
- Ah the 80’s….when high schools had designated smoking areas.
- Didi’s grandmother is off her rocker. She helps Didi interpret her dreams, telling her that one of Didi’s dreams is precognitive, yet that she can change what happens. Then when Didi’s mom discovers a lump in her breast after cancer treatment, she says that she knows the cancer is still there and spreading. Grandmother’s response? “If that’s what you believe, that’s what will happen.” Right, Grandmother, we all know that cancer can be denied away.
- Didi accepts her fate about transferring to the coop way too easily. Also, would they really send a kid to alternative school for simple truancy? Especially once the circumstances of Didi’s mom were known? I seem to doubt it and it makes me angry with the regular school for giving up on a good student.
- The Coop has lackluster academics. They only offer general math, and NO foreign language program, which is a major problem for Didi, who is working her ass off to become a linguist. Instead of foreign language, she takes Home Ec!
- Oh man, a drinking game I’d never heard of! It’s called Bizz Buzz. You sit in a circle and count off. Only for multiples of five, you say bizz and for multiples of seven you say buzz. So, “one, two, three, four, bizz, six, buzz, eight, nine, bizz, eleven, twelve, thirteen, buzz, bizz, sixteen….” etc. If you are wrong, take a drink! I must be a juvenile dork because that sounds fun.
- While at a party, Didi meets some friends from Stacy’s old school. None other than Elsie Edwards and Jenny Sawyer. Elsie and Jenny say that Stacy hasn’t been the same person the last few months. (Stacy’s dad was in the Navy and was usually away. He retired a few months earlier).
- Didi’s Dad hires a housekeeper named Monica to help out while her Mom is sick. Monica sucks at cooking and brings her bratty daughter Cindy over too often. Didi hates Monica and makes constant fun of Cindy, who is overweight. Didi starts to feel pushed out of her own family when her dad seems to be able to open up to Monica, but not to her.
- I don’t really get this. When Stacy tells the teacher about her dad, the teacher’s advice is to get a lock on her bedroom door. Then when her dad tries to come in, to sneak out the window to a nearby 7-11 and call the cops. Um….what? Couldn’t the teacher have just called the cops right there? Why go through all the hassle about the lock?
- Oh, and fuck you Stacy’s Aunt. After the dad finally gets arrested, Stacy admits that she didn’t tell anyone because her dad had said he’d leave her mother to starve if she told anyone. And Stacy’s Aunt explains about how they live in a community-property state, so half of everything is the mom’s. And then she’s like, “how could you be so dumb to believe that?” And I’m just nauseous that anyone would talk to a 16 victim of sex abuse like that. Seriously. There have been fucking studies done about why girls don’t tell people they’re being abused and why they believe their abusers over their friends and family. So yeah, just fuck you Stacy’s Aunt.