Author Bernadette Y. Connor spins a thought-provoking tale of abuse, survival, redemption, and the need for forgiveness in her novel Damaged! The novel centers around the relationship of teenager Adrena Reynolds and her psychiatrist Vivian Matthews. As a child, Adrena was raped and beaten by her violent father while her drug addicted mother sat by and watched. After being rescued from her abusive home, the girl is assigned to Dr. Matthews for treatment and placed in foster care. But Dr. Matthews’ inexperience in her position is evident, as she allows herself to become overly attached emotionally to her young charge, and Adrena’s own sociopathic tendencies readily become evident as she manipulates her relationship with Matthews like some emotional vampire.
Connor has a wonderful eye for detail and a gift for providing the reader with a strong sense of place. Her descriptions of sessions between Matthews and Adrena almost leave the reader feeling as if she as broken some doctor-patient privilege, the detail is so clear. And the heart-wrenching scene involving the actual assault on Adrena was so intense I had to put the book down and collect my thoughts before continuing.
The true power of this novel is hampered, however, by the authors tendency to overly explain to the reader what they should be feeling. She often makes statements of the obvious that take away from the story. There are times when I almost felt as if the writer was making excuses for Dr. Matthew’s inability to handle her patient. There is also a tendency to dictate events, as opposed to allowing them to blossom on their own. This is particularly true at the beginning of the novel, when we are given a laundry list of crimes committed by Adrena against her foster parents, including two arsons, and attempts to poison her foster family members.
Because of this, Adrena comes across more as a sociopath than a sympathetic character. Instead of slowly descending into a madness that culminates in a final act of aggression, Adrena’s pattern of behavior makes the ending almost anticlimactic. After seeing the troubled youth commit so many atrocities, the ending doesn’t carry the punch it otherwise could.
Overall, however, the book is well worth the read. Connor writes with an exciting energy that delivers a moving psychological drama that is sure to captivate the reader.