Don’t look up.
Never make eye contact.
Those were the words I lived by growing up, the words that protected me in an unsafe home. But words are only letters and eventually even they couldn’t keep his hands off me.
Hoping to leave behind the shattered life of my past, I find myself in a boring, small town, with an aunt I’ve never met and at a school I loathe.
But soon I learn, not everything in this world is as black and white as I’ve determined. Sometimes those we are so quick to judge often need a second, third or even fourth time to make a first impression.
And often, there are friendships and even love waiting just around the corner, if we are brave enough to take the first step.
Am I brave? Or will I hide behind these tattered gloves of mine forever?..
I realized as I sat down to write this review, it’s been a little while since I last gave a book five stars, but The Tattered Gloves pleasantly surprised me. This is the first book I’ve read by J.L. Berg, who traditionally writes adult romances, but if this is any indication of what she’s capable of, it won’t be the last. Willow is the daughter of a prostitute with no idea who her father is. After a horrific event involving Willow and one of her mother’s “clients”, her mother packs her up and sends her off to live with an aunt Willow didn’t even know existed. Constantly wearing a ratty old pair of red gloves, Willow avoids touching and being touched by others, something she can no longer tolerate.
Willow’s Aunt Addy is everything Willow’s mother was not. Through her aunt, Willow learns her own family history, along with some valuable lessons about humanity. Willow may not have won the parent lottery, but family is so much more than just who gave birth to you. In addition, Willow is befriended by Allison, a popular girl with a heart of gold, and Sam, a swoonworthy boy who both infuriates and intrigues Willow.
The primary plot revolves around Willow coming to terms with her wounds, and she has a lot of them. Not only was she physically abused, but her mother neglected her, resulting in solid, well-founded trust issues. Subplots involve her relationship with Sam, the struggling bookstore Sam runs with his family where Willow works part time, and to a lesser degree, her relationship with her aunt. Nothing is glossed over and there is no easy path. About the only thing I found lacking was the involvement of a therapist in Willow’s journey. The fact that she had to figure it out all on her own was fine, but it felt too fast without someone there helping guide her through some of the tougher issues. Her epiphany was also out of the blue in a way that didn’t feel organic. Those are small criticisms though in an otherwise well plotted and executed story.
This is more a character-driven tale than a plot-driven one and the characters are outstanding. Willow is believable as the broken girl with the scars no one can see. Her aunt is perfect as the woman thrown unexpectedly into a role she never prepared for. Addy’s unease and fear at doing everything wrong is palpable. At times I found BFF, Allison, to be almost too good to be true, except everyone has had that one friend who doesn’t take no for an answer. Thank God for friends like that! And Sam…there’s so much to love about this broken boy with his own sad story who still manages to see so much more in Willow than she can see in herself.
Author, J.L. Berg expertly captures small-town life with all it’s good and bad aspects. The tiny Virginia town came to life in a way that allowed it to be the perfect backdrop for Willow’s story.
What I Loved About The Tattered Gloves
1. Willow. She’s complex, deep, and incredibly well developed. She’s the sort of girl I’d like to have been friends with as a teen.
2. Sam. He is sweet, loyal, persistent, and yet guarded and wounded. He’s the perfect foil and boyfriend for Willow.
3. Allison. She’s perky and pushy, but in all the right ways.
4. Addy. She takes on her new role with grit and determination and allows Willow to set the boundaries.
5. The ending. I love the way the story wrapped up. It wasn’t this nice, neat little package, but it left me satisfied.
The Tattered Gloves is a moving young adult read with phenomenal characters.
About the Book
Title: The Tattered Gloves
Author: J.L. Berg
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay
About the Author
J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series, The Walls Duet, and the Lost & Found Duet. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she’s not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.