Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shattered by Melody Carlson

Cleo is almost eighteen and a senior. She and her friend, Lola, want to attend a Christian concert in the city, at the Coliseum. Cleo is hoping to drive her father's car to the concert, but Cleo's mother is having none of it. When Cleo balks, her mother offers to come with her and Lola, sacrificing her own night out at her best friend's bachelorette party. Cleo doesn't want her mother to do this. She wants to go with her friend, not her mother. This concert is special to Cleo and Lola because it is Lola's last day in  the city. Lola's parents divorced last summer and  her mother Vera, is taking a new job in San Diego.The concert is one last time for Cleo and Lola to do something together before Lola moves.

Cleo is completely frustrated because her mother will not allow her any space to try new things and spread her wings as a young adult. She feels that her mother is suffocating her. But no matter how much she argues or tries to convince her mother of this, she will not let go.

"There will always be something," I say a bit too loudly. 
"There will be car wrecks and epidemics and murders and all sorts of horrible things happening all over the planet, Mom. But that does not mean they'll happen to me. Don't you get that? Someday you will have to let me go!"

Upset at her mother's suffocating ways, Cleo decides to plan to attend the concert without her mother's knowledge. If she can't drive,Cleo decides she and Lola will take public transit to the concert. Although Cleo feels guilty about disobeying her mother and lying to her, her desire to be more independent overrules her feelings. When she and Lola arrive at the concert, Cleo pushes aside her feeling of guilt and tries to enjoy herself. After the concert they arrive safely home and Cleo decides she will confess to her mother what she did in the morning. Cleo never gets that chance because, incredibly,  her mother is killed in a carjacking outside the Coliseum that night!

From the messages left on  her phone, Cleo learns that her mother returned home early and when she found Cleo and Lola gone, she drove to the Coliseum to pick them up. Her mother arrived early and while driving around waiting for the concert to end,  she was carjacked and murdered. Cleo concludes that if she had not disobeyed her mother and gone to the concert, her mother would be alive today. Cleo truly believes she is responsible for her mother's death. It is her darkest secret that she will never reveal to anyone. She is overwhelmed with grief and pain and in order to cope with this pain Cleo begins taking tranquilizers. Cleo becomes addicted to the prescription drugs and is soon buying drugs from a local dealer.

But there are several people in Cleo's life who are there to help her - her mother's sister, Kellie, who arrives shortly after the tragedy. Although Cleo treats her with disdain at first, calling her "slightly functional"  and tries to push her away, it is Kellie who is Cleo's saviour. Eventually things spiral downward to the point that Cleo is hospitalized. Her Aunt Kellie confronts her regarding her addiction based on her experience with her brother Kevin. She discovers Cleo's secret and helps her move forward with her grieving, encouraging her to experience the pain of her mother's death and telling her that she is not responsible for what happened to her mother..

Cleo also meets a guy from her school who expresses a sudden interest in her and it is this relationship that provides some of the impetus to get well. Daniel Crane is the boy she's been infatuated with since her sophomore year. He's not only a natural athlete but he's good looking and kind to Cleo.

To be honest, I found the plot of Shattered bordering on melodramatic and stretching credibility. Cleo's mother was highly dysfunctional and it was understandable that Cleo would try to break free of her mother's suffocating grip on her life. Cleo goes out for the first time in her life and her mother is murdered - making for a very contrived and almost unbelievable plot. In most normal families, what would be happening the night of the concert would be discussed well before the date. In the case of things happening last minute, Cleo's mother could have driven her daughter and her friend to the concert. She could have picked her up afterwards. This is what normal parents do if the circumstances are such that there is a safety issue. It's what I do. It's what my friends do. But most of the time our teens go as a group to something such as concert.

It is interesting that in the front page of the book, Carlson indicates that "some of the anecdotal illustrations in this book are true to life and are included with the permission of the persons involved. All other illustrations are composites of real situations, and any resemblance....." While this may be true, I think many teens would find it hard to identify with the potential lessons in the book, given the strange circumstances they are framed within. I believe framing these issues under such extreme circumstances, detracts from the goal of the book and that of the publisher NavPress which as stated in the front of the book is "to helping people grow spiritually and enjoy lives of meaning and hope through personal and group resources that are biblically rooted, culturally relevant, and highly practical."

Despite the ridiculous turn of events, there are some good issues that can be discussed with teens; helicopter parenting, teen independence, obedience, lying, prescription drug abuse and family life.

Book Details:
A Daughter's Regret. Shattered by Melody Carlson
NavPress 2011
199 pp.

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