The Protected – Claire Zorn – University of Queensland Press – Published 23 July 2014
I have three months left to call Katie my older sister. Then the gap will close and I will pass her. I will get older. But Katie will always be fifteen, eleven months and twenty-one days old.
Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?
Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?
In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.
What a heartbreaking story. Grief and bullying, family, friends and sisters – the relationships that break you, and how you learn to survive them.
Hannah’s sister is dead. Her father is injured and can’t remember what happened and her mother is grief-stricken, no longer leaving the house or eating. Hannah is left floating in the middle, torn between grief and fear for the future. But Katie’s death has provided Hannah with a band of safety that she never had when Katie was alive – protection from the bullies that torment her.
The Protected is narrated by Hannah, and switches between times before Katie is killed and after. This can be a little confusing, as at first it’s not totally clear which sections are from before and which are from after. But this delicate writing style becomes really effective once you get your head around the story line. The before sections are about Hannah’s relationship with her sister Katie and the continual harassment and bullying Hannah endures from the whole school population. These sections are particularly heartbreaking. And they made me really mad!! I can’t believe the people in this story. How can this kind of bullying be allowed to happen. Where the hell are the teachers, the bus drivers!!! I wanted to see some punishment. Argh!!!
The after sections show the protection Hannah has gained against the bullying though Katie’s death. And, as you read, more details are revealed about the last year since Katie’s death, leading up to uncovering what really happened. The delicate balance between each of the before and after sections, which change multiple times in each chapter, is wonderfully written. The awful mix of grief, pain, hope, and now even safety that Hannah feels following the death of her sister is portrayed well, as is the gradual changes in her family and her situation at school. Josh is a great addition to the story. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a romance, more like the beginning of a great friendship with the possibility for more. The story isn’t really about romance – it’s about family, what can tear it apart and how they can be rest itched together; it’s about the complicated relationship between sisters; it’s about the importance of friendship; but most importantly The Protected is about the resilience and strength of a quiet, shy girl who has been so very hurt. Horribly beautiful. A fantastic book.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Family, abuse, social issues, friendship, grief, death, resilience.
Age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Frequent coarse language, f***, s***, sl**. Sexual references. Violence: school yard fight, minimal details.
Published: 23 July 2014 by University of Queensland Press.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 264 pages.