Blog Tour Review: THESE GENTLE WOUNDS by Helene Dunbar
PROS:absolutely captivating narrator; strong sibling relationships; butterfly-inducing romance; stunning writing
CONS:if you don't like to ugly cry in public, read this at home
An outstanding new voice in contemporary YA – not to be missed!
I honestly had no idea what kind of book I was in for when I agreed to review These Gentle Wounds. I had glanced at the synopsis when I requested it, but completely forgotten it by the time I started the book, so I wasn’t at all prepared for this beautifully written, deeply emotional story. And I wasn’t at all prepared to be unable to put this book down, or to read it without crying (I read this in one sitting while waiting in line at a book festival, and that probably wasn’t the best place to start something like this, but oh well).
I was completely sucked into Gordie’s world, feeling all of his fears and joys as he tries to live some semblance of a normal life after surviving a tragedy that seems ripped from the headlines. I normally don’t connect this strongly with male narrators, but Gordie’s voice is so realistic and arresting, it is damn near impossible to not be swept up in his world. He’s not manipulative, or maudlin as he details the unflinching facts of his life, but honest, afraid and hopeful. My heart was breaking for him over and over again as he experiences new and exciting coming-of-age moments alongside terrifying blasts from the past threaten the stability he’s worked so hard for.
Gordie’s brother Kevin is a complicated, wonderful character that is at once strong and incredibly damaged. Most of his own trauma from their past has been internalized; he just doesn’t have time to be a victim when his little brother Gordie needs him. He’s used to being Gordie’s rock, defending him at school, helping him navigate his “spins,” and making him feel safe. I am a sucker for strong sibling relationships, and Gordie and Kevin’s brotherly love and friendship gave me a glimmering ray of hope in one of the bleakest situations I’ve ever read about.
Sarah is another fantastically written supporting character. The romance between Gordie and Sarah was handled perfectly – it felt like absolutely everything to Gordie, but he didn’t want to believe he deserved it. I love when a book can make you feel transported in time back to your first kiss, your first love so completely—the excitement and uncertainty all wrapped up into one heart fluttering experience.
These Gentle Wounds reminds me in some ways of Split, one of my all time favorite male-narrated contemporaries that has so much trauma in it that I was at once paralyzed with fear and sadness for the main character, while also captivated by his voice and unable to stop reading. The romance reminds me of Eleanor & Park, in the way I was on the edge of my seat with fear for a character’s home life, but also bursting with hope and joy that they’ve found a person who can help them see past all the ugliness; where every scene with that person feels electric with possibility.
While I’ve read and loved many contemporaries in 2014, many of which have gotten oodles of buzz, These Gentle Wounds, a book that took me by complete surprise, is my favorite contemporary so far this year. Helene Dunbar is an outstanding new author to watch. I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon this book, because I was so close to overlooking it and that would have been such a shame.
THESE GENTLE WOUNDS by Helene Dunbar
Release Date: May 8, 2014
Paperback, 312 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Tough Issues / PTSD
Sometimes I wish I’d lost a leg or something. Everyone can understand that. They never get it when what’s been broken is inside your head.
Five years after an unspeakable tragedy that changed him forever, Gordie Allen has made a new home with his half-brother Kevin. Their arrangement works since Kevin is the only person who can protect Gordie at school and keep him focused on getting his life back on track.
But just when it seems like things are becoming normal, Gordie’s biological father comes back into the picture, demanding a place in his life. Now there’s nothing to stop Gordie from falling into a tailspin that could cost him everything—including his relationship with Sarah, the first girl he’s trusted with the truth. With his world spinning out of control, the only one who can help Gordie is himself . . . if he can find the strength to confront the past and take back his future.
Helene Dunbar usually writes features about fiddles and accordions for Irish Music Magazine, but she’s also been known to write about court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes.She’s lived in two countries, six states, and is currently holed up in Nashville with her husband, daughter, two cats, and the world’s friendliest golden retriever.THESE GENTLE WOUNDSis Helene’s debut novel with Flux Books.