Friday, April 6, 2018

My Name Is Venus Black: A Novel by Heather Lloyd

In this stirring, life-affirming debut novel, a young woman must reconcile her past with its far-reaching consequences on her quest for redemption.

I think about this a lot lately, trying to figure out how I got here. I trace my life back in time, looking for all those places in the past where, if I could change one key detail, I would never have seen what I saw or done what I did that terrible February night.

Venus Black is a straitlaced, straight-A student obsessed with the phenomena of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, suddenly goes missing.

Five years later, Venus emerges from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
"If you ask me, we’re all born by accident and there’s no such thing as God. We travel through this life with no real trajectory, ricocheted here and there by the consequences of other people’s actions. And it works both ways, of course. The stupidest little thing we do can alter the future for so many people."
I received an e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Also, the quotes I used may have changed or been altered in some way, but I am quoting from what I received.

My Name Is Venus Black made me feel a lot of things. I thought I knew what to expect when I started this, but I was wrong. I was pleasantly surprised with the story and how beautifully it was portrayed. I was also heartbroken and insane with uncertainty on more than one occasion. 

The beginning is hard to read, because you have no idea what's going on. The author keeps the specifics to herself, and slowly lets things slip as the story progresses. You have to very patient with this book, because nothing is rushed. It was painful at times, especially when her brother goes missing and years pass before the story continues. 

The writing was phenomenal! I loved the way the author spoke through the characters.

"That’s another thing that got me here. Nothing is as it appears. It’s like that with space. Objects that look round might not be, and stars that look close to each other might be billions of miles apart. And it’s the same with people. Only instead of standing too far away to see the truth, you’re probably standing too close."

I can't say I would have done things the same way Venus did, but I can see why she made certain decisions. Her mother was...ugh. I really wish she had done more for her children. We get an idea of what her mindset was like, but I still don't agree with her reasoning. She seemed disconnected.

I really enjoyed the parts that are told through Leo's perspective. He's developmentally challenged, and I think the author did a great job conveying his thoughts. I can't imagine that is an easy thing to do, but I felt like I understood a lot about Leo. It was fascinating to see how he viewed what was happening around him, his choices for dealing with what happened, and other things that occur later on.

I also like that this book brings attention to how hard it is for someone being released from prison. They've served their sentence, but the world doesn't make it easy for them once they get out. It's a constant battle for them to try and make something with their lives, especially when they've been kept away from the world they are now expected to live in.

My heart was so torn while I read this. I felt conflicted about my feelings and how I wanted the story to end. I didn't agree with a lot that happened (and I think it's great when an author can help me perceive viewpoints so different from my own), but I can also understand why certain choices were made in the moment. It all comes back to the first quote, and how one small thing can alter the future for so many other people.

25 comments:

  1. Is it ever specified what kind of disability Leo suffers from? "Developmentally challenged" seems like a rather wide umbrella.

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    1. They don't come right out and say, "Leo has THIS." It's more like... he's seven but has the mentality of a two-year old (I think that's the right age gap). We see how he interacts with people, and also how he handles stressful situations. We see his need for routine and how things need to be done a certain way. Most of this book is told from a child's perspective, or someone no longer around Leo, or Leo himself.

      I know it seems like a wide umbrella, but I think the author did a wonderful job explaining how Leo felt in certain situations. It was interesting to see how his mind worked. I'm sorry if that wasn't the answer you were looking for!

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    2. Ah, but no, I was just curious. He seems on the autistic spectrum though.

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    3. That would be my guess, too. The book just never specifically states what his disability is. Just that it's mental, and he acts younger than he is. You could always tweet/email the author and ask!

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  2. This is one that I have and am excited to read. I enjoyed your thoughts and think I'll really enjoy it when I do pick it up.

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    1. Yay! I hope you like it as much as I did! Let me know what you think when you have a chance to read it. 😁

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  3. Your heart torn? The feels, the feels

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    1. Sooo many feels. I felt like I couldn't breathe at one point, because I REALLY NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

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  4. Um, yeah. I’m going to have to read this one.

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    1. I actually think is something you'd really like!

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  5. Great review Lindsi! I was interested to read how Leo was developmentally challenged! That is hard to portray and I love the idea of read that POV. We are so much of what are parents are when we're young... then having to grow up and separate who we are from our parents is what being a YA is all about. It sounds like an incredible book! <3

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    1. I think Venus has felt separated from her parents for a long time. She goes to prison for 5 years and has no desire to speak to her mom. Like I said, I think her mom felt disconnected from everything that was going on in her life.

      Venus grew up in prison, and then she's forced to try and make a life for herself when she gets out, which the world doesn't make an easy process. She's still growing as a person, and trying to figure out who she is going to be, but that's hard when you don't know how much longer you'll have a bed to sleep in.

      It's a very thought-provoking book. You should definitely read it!

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  6. Personally, I don't think this book is for me, but a few weeks ago we had an outreach program for inmates, and one of them really became close to my heart. So yes, I would love to read about those who're just released from prison. I think I'd love to read from Leo's point of view, too.

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    1. That sounds really nice. Sometimes kids make mistakes and spend the rest of their childhood in prison or juvie. If they have no family, or someone to look after them, how are they expected to thrive once they get out? Business don't want to hire them, colleges don't want to accept them, so they likely end up doing things that will get them locked up again. It's a horrible cycle that needs to be broken. There needs to be a better system in place to help people being released from prison. They need assistance to get going and get on their feet.

      Leo's perspective was really interesting to read.

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  7. Not really my type of book but it does sound like others might like it.

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    1. Hey, not every book is meant for every person. That's why there are so many to choose from! Books are wonderful in that way. :)

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    2. What are you reading right now? Something good??

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  8. This sounds so different!!! I like :D

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    1. It was very different! And so engaging!

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  9. I find myself really frustrated when the characters do things I don't approve of or the ending is just not what I wanted. However, this sounds like it delivers some good gut punches and that is always a plus for me.

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    1. I felt suspended for a large portion of this book, and I kept waiting to fall. There's so much being built in the first quarter of the book, and then SOMETHING. A few years go by, and then we slowly start to figure things out.

      A lot of the characters made decisions I didn't agree with or approve of, but I like that about books. I'm able to view perspectives that are so different from my own. It's interesting to watch how their choices play out, especially since I'm not likely to find myself in a similar situation. Everyone is different, and that's why there are an endless number of stories to tell.

      The ending wasn't what I wanted, or not what I wanted. It's just how their story ended. I don't think there was an ending that would have provided a happy ending for everyone, but it was incredibly realistic and honest.

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  10. This sounds very different to what I'd usually read but I'm curious. :)

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    1. It's not what I usually read either, but I'm glad I took a chance on it! I hope your curiosity means you'll read it eventually, lol.

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  11. I don't do well with books that require a lot of patience lol, but I'm glad you liked this so much and that the writing was so good! I really like that second quote!

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    1. Me too!

      SO MUCH PATIENCE. The cliffhanger happens at the beginning of the book and doesn't resolve itself until the very end. I was dying throughout the book wondering wtf was going to happen.

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