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 teenagerAdrena Reynolds and her psychiatrist Vivian Matthews. As a child, Adrenawas raped and beaten by her violent father while her drug addictedmother sat by and watched. After being rescued from her abusive home,the girl is assigned to Dr. Matthews for treatment and placed in fostercare. But Dr. Matthews’ inexperience in her position is evident, as sheallows herself to become overly attached emotionally to her youngcharge, and Adrena’s own sociopathic tendencies readily become evidentas she manipulates her relationship with Matthews like some emotionalvampire.
Connor has a wonderful eye for detail and a gift for providing thereader with a strong sense of place. Her descriptions of sessionsbetween Matthews and Adrena almost leave the reader feeling as if she asbroken some doctor-patient privilege, the detail is so clear. And theheart-wrenching scene involving the actual assault on Adrena was sointense I had to put the book down and collect my thoughts beforecontinuing.
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 asympathetic character. Instead of slowly descending into a madness thatculminates in a final act of aggression, Adrena’s pattern of behaviormakes the ending almost anticlimactic. After seeing the troubled youthcommit so many atrocities, the ending doesn’t carry the punch itotherwise could.
Overall, however, the book is well worth the read. Connor writes with anexciting energy that delivers a moving psychological drama that is sureto captivate the reader.