Seven Days by Eve Ainsworth
Published by Scholastic UK
The first thing that struck me about this book was its cover. It is confronting. It is very powerful—layer upon layer of hand written words that are hurtful, rude and slanderous. This cues you in that what lies between the pages will be confronting and difficult as well.
And it is.
It is teenage life.
Jess and Kez are the schoolyard stereotypes. Kez is the mouthy pretty bully girl and Jess is the fat weak loser. Kez and her cronies bully loner Jess. This seems harsh but that is how it is portrayed. In one week, Kez ups the pressure via cyber, verbal and physical means. It appears her boyfriend Lynton has a soft spot for Jess and their relationship brings a jealous insecure Kez to the brink.
The book is divided into two sides of the girls’ story over the course of seven days. We get Jess’ home and school life and then we get to hear from Kez. The insights are alarming as both bully and victim have far from perfect homes or families.
Jess’ father has a new family while her mother struggles to make ends meet working herself into parenting absentia. Kez’s house looks perfect from the street but inside is a sick world of domestic violence that is truly terrifying.
Dysfunctional fathers and distracted mothers are present in each world. Whatever relationship they had as young children and parents seems to have disintegrated.
We gain insight and empathy into each girl’s world. Jess has true friends while Kez becomes caught up in 'Means to an end' mean girl Marnie. Jess’ friends Phillip, Hannah and Lois become supportive allies and see her through very tough times.
Kez’s final actions alienate her from her peers, her boyfriend and Marnie shows her true fair-weather friend colours. Enraged by Jess’ presence at Lynton’s party she uses brute force to make a point, crosses a mental and social line and finds she really wants to kill Jess. The final act is prevented but leaves all shattered.
Ashamed, Kez realizes she is a bully just like her father. It leaves her suicidal.
This all happens in one week but the circumstances have been brewing all of their young adolescent lives. The book opens up a discussion on the huge impact of parents and home environment on their children. Schools and teachers are portrayed as either unseeing or doling out attenuated kindness. Both girls have different teachers ask them what is truly happening and both refuse to reveal their troubles, as it will only cause more trouble. The girls need to front up to their own problems before they let outside help in.
My own teenage daughter started to read the book one Friday night and I found her sitting up in bed early on a Saturday morning finishing it off. It is a gripping read. I think girls between 12 and 16 would find this a compelling and insightful narrative. It prompts you to look at the world from another point of view and how that point of view can become distorted if it is formed in a dysfunctional household. There is so much to be discussed.
Ainsworth’s style has immediacy, warmth, heart and humour. She has the knack of nailing the matter at heart, pulling at its threads with dignity and understanding. There are two sides to every story and although we feel for Jess initially, we come to understand Kez as well.
“Hurting isn’t a weakness. The strength comes from moving on.”
This is one of the most important ideas in the book, both characters assess their situation, their own failings and move to change and improve. Powerful stuff.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Eve Ainsworth
Title: Seven Days
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Published: May 2015