Novel: Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir | Goodreads
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair.
Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just “Gannon” to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach.Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being.
Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief.
But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she’s standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She’s given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test. Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.
This is a book you have to read all at once. If you don’t, it will haunt you. If you do, it will haunt you after, with the lingering perplexity and relief that comes with having a life that isn’t like the characters. This is a book that I will push on you. I’ll probably suggest it for book club because it’s a story that left its mark on me. Christa Desir has this powerful ability to make you feel – sadness, darkness – in a way that leaves you exhausted but not down. Sarcastic and dry, Bleed Like Me takes every YA cliche known to man and turns it upside down in a gritty contemp.
Amelia is a rockstar of an MC. Although her choices can be questionable – as with all teenagers – she dealt with a lot and still remained largely the same person. She took refuge from her abominable family issues in her boyfriend and in her cutting habits, and it began poisoning the rest of her life. Her comfort soon became her problem. She had a messed-up family and a fondness for smoking menthol cigarettes in the skate park. Her expected sarcasm and self-harm seem inevitable as a dark YA heroine but she brings this unbridled vulnerability to the page that makes each horror fresh.
When she meets Brooks, he provides a much-needed escape from her rocky family. This book was about substance and rawness and grit. It was engrossing and tentative, rough and sad. It’s the kind of book that makes you grateful your circumstances are nothing like these. This is a love story but it’s about what happens when love becomes the addiction, when it becomes the very darkness Gannon was trying to escape. The relationship sucks you in right along with the characters.
I should warn you that it goes into detail about things like cutting and other things that could trigger people who have dealt with them in the past. Everything about this book was focused on addiction: instalove, self-harm, possessiveness. It was like an abusive relationship, so obsessed with each other that it became unhealthy.
One thing I always admire about Desir’s writing (in this book and in her previous, Fault Line) is the quality of her writing. It’s something you normally see in writers like Nova Ren Suma or Amy McNamara – authors with MFAs in fiction or poetry to their names. Christa Desir’s well-crafted sentences and clean syntax. Word choice, articulation, all of it suits the tone of the book so well and makes it all smooth.
It reminded me of a scrappy, exotic, and horrifying version of The Fault in Our Stars – a comparison that I’m sure Christa Desir is wincing at but it’s true; Brooks is like the effed-up version of Augustus Waters. It’s what would happen if Augustus Waters huffed and gave hickies and screwed with your head, dyed his hair blue. Brooks has this undeniable magnetic quality to him, the exact quality that made his power over Amelia so dangerous. He was immediately obsessed with Amelia Gannon.
Desir has this stunning ability to be able to put herself firmly in the perspective of her characters. There are issues like drugs, the foster system, ideas that are usually portrayed as separate from the characters. Desir has this ability to interweave them so closely – identity and problems – to where what the characters are doing is a direct part of their being. She takes the dark underbelly of teen life and makes it accessible, not in a way that might tempt you but in a way that keeps you aware that these things happen. So many writers try and fail to capture the atmosphere that Desir creates without effort.
The gorgeous writing and smooth voice creates an honesty to the pages that is the book’s most enduring quality. Small details and actions keep it rooted in such undeniable humanity that it cuts you to the core. This book is pure emotion and passion; the paranoia and pity are so strong that when love gets pressed into the mix, there’s no escaping the draw of it until it starts destroying them even more.
The family issue was the most disturbing part of the book. Her mother and father were previously a great part of her life, but when her mom decided to adopt orphan boys from Guatemala a few years ago, it screwed up her family to a shocking extent. The boys were troublemakers, tormenting her parents and causing a scene, doing unspeakably inhumane acts but her parents could hardly keep it under control. Her father withdrew altogether; her mother kept with them due to the guilt of their previous circumstances.
The only people Amelia could talk to were Ali (her best friend) and Dennis, the carpentry shop owner. Amelia was interested in woodworking which was really cool to read about. I love girls with passion or unusual talents. Ali tried to reach Gannon but was embroiled in her own issues. She couldn’t be the good influence that Amelia needed. Dennis’s advice fell on deaf ears but his unwavering affection for her was sweeter than her romantic relationship.
Ali and Gannon’s friendship was a fascinating dynamic to me; both of them dealt with their own problems and issues, close enough friends to be defaults for each other but not close enough to really talk it through. They considered each other “best friends” simply because there was nobody else and were shocked when they genuinely cared about each other or tried to help out. It’s something I’ve never dealt with so I found it interesting how their friendship worked, particularly as the plot spiraled deeper and their other relationships went out of control.
I appreciated this book. It’s awful and there are messy issues portrayed in clean writing. There are substances and grit and grief but it’s important. The point is that it’s screwed up, that it’s a book that stays with you longer than it takes to read it. The point is that it’s tentative and unflinching and unapologetic. Witty and upsetting, dry and powerful. Bleed Like Me will make you bleed. Wow. I can’t get this book out of my head.