"He beats you too?"…..or I Never Asked You to Understand Me.

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 GradeThough 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. 

About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Angst, Barthe DeClements, dead parents. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to "He beats you too?"…..or I Never Asked You to Understand Me.

  1. Sadako says:

    These parents sound awful!Speaking of Buzz, I used to play it in French class. (We pronounced it booz though, because that's how the French roll.) I guess it's the kind of game that's too easy to play sober or in English so you play it in another language or drunk so it's harder. Then again, it's really hard when you get to the thirties (we played it for multiples of three or anything with three in the number, like for 23 or 13).

  2. Sadako says:

    Er, for parents, read adults.

  3. Sada says:

    WOW. Was this… good? Do dead moms and sexual abuse really need to happen in the SAME BOOK?If I ever have to do math in a drinking game, you will probably find me in the ER.

  4. nikki says:

    Oh Sadako, parents instead of adults worked just as well. Stacy's dad is clearly the #1 bad Y.A. parent. Because…well, obviously the reason is that he raped his daughter. Sada – I think the point was that Stacy and Didi were both good girls until this shit happened to him. In a way, yeah the death of a parent and being sexually abused can fuck you up. But I know an all too unfortunate amount of girls who were sexually abused and kids who dealt with the death of a parent and they pretty much turned out OK. No special alternative school needed. I wouldn't go out on a limb and call it a good book. But it wasn't terrible either. I think the issues weren't handled perfectly, but they were handled all right.

  5. oldschoolpopculture says:

    I never read this one. I read the others in this series. I'm with Sada. I would die of alcohol poisoning if I played a math drinking game. I can barely do math sober!

  6. Sadako says:

    I actually just typed out a recommendation to you about another sexual abuse/incest book, and it's Silver and then I checked and saw you already reviewed it! Now I really want to reread Silver. It was sad but great.

  7. Lorelai says:

    We used to play Buzz in primary school! It's how they grilled us on our times tables skills. I agree with the above comments that math and drinking don't mix, though. Cards and spoons, or shots and more shots — that's how you drink!

  8. I wouldn't even begin to try playing that drinking game, I would fail so hard at it. This seems like an incredibly heavy book for YA Lit. I can't imagine how I'd get through reading it as a teen; I have trouble reading books about sexual abuse now. I also can't believe how Stacy's Aunt reacts to the news her niece was raped by her father. There are some pretty neglectful/insensitive adults in YA Lit, but wow.

  9. Stacy's teacher fails as a mandated reporter. She needed to call child protective services about 2 milliseconds after Stacy told her!I can't believe how neglectful the adults are! That's the teacher's job! It's the law!

  10. Caroline says:

    Ugh, reading how the adults react to Stacy makes me all worked up. This sounds like a really heavy read…

  11. kahran042 says:

    So, about Bizz Buzz, what do you do at 35, 70, 105, etc? "Bozz?"

  12. I think I read this book when I was a kid. I don't really remember, though. I know I read Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You…I can only think of one or two books that handled sexual abuse in a way that didn't make me want to hurl the book aside in annoyance (and this is as a teenager, when my bullshit tolerance was significantly higher due to life inexperience). Uncle Vampire was good – of course, I think I just blew the huge plot twist there. Well, one of them. There's another one that's even more "holy shit, really?!" but I remember the book as being good enough that it all worked. I recommend checking it out.There was another one, but I can't remember the title, author or plot, just a vague memory of reading it the summer I was seventeen and pretty much living at the libray.

  13. Juliette says:

    I can kind of feel empathy with this girl. I was ALMOST raped by two guys, at different times. One was at after school in the bathroom and the other was at where i get piano lessons, but both times i was able to fight out by clawing and biting. But i can’t imagine being raped by your father: those two guys were my age at the time. Poor girl, i don’t think i’d be able to read it

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