Turn the World Upside Down by Nyrae Dawn
This is an intensely emotional YA story primarily about a 16 year old boy called Hunter Donovan. Hunter is reeling from the after effects of discovering that his father had been sexually abusing his younger sister, Holly. Feelings of horror and guilt and anger overwhelm Hunter to the point his mother decides to send him to Better Days facility to try and help him cope. He has recently been fuelling his anger in a physical way and Hunter’s mum feels he needs a time out spent with people qualified to channel his feelings in a more constructive way. Initially Hunter reacts in the only way he knows how and shuts down keeping all his feelings inside and not co-operating with any of his counsellors or therapists. Without giving too much away, 4 other kids staying at the facility slowly break down Hunter’s stoic defences and against his iron will, become his friends. One of the boys called Stray fascinates Hunter and when he discovers Stray is also gay the possibility of their relationship developing is never far from his mind. There are other little plot developments that add to the overall storyline that are relevant and interesting.
Each one of the characters in this story is broken in some way. Not everyone can be fixed and no one is more aware of this than Hunter but as the reader joins him on his journey to recovery we learn to accept that ‘normal’ is not the same for everybody and getting back to the person you used to be is not necessarily the answer. Hunter has to question and rebuild everything about his life; his relationships with his mum and sister, and also how to live with the enormous feeling of guilt he has over not being able to protect Holly.
Nyrae Dawn’s vivid writing takes us on a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows and we join Hunter and his friends at Better Days, hoping and praying and willing for them all to move towards a positive and promising future.
This was a beautiful story written sensitively and with an obvious amount of research behind it.