A review by clem
Betty, by Tiffany McDaniel

dark emotional sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


Oof. This is a competent novel and I can see the elements that people find appealing, but I found very little to like here. I didn't like the prose, I found the child narrator totally unbelievable, and I predicted every single beat of the sordid plot. It's difficult to pinpoint why I found this book so distasteful, because I typically read books with dark and heavy subject matter. Maybe it's the way it's so unrelenting and, in my opinion, without finesse or subtlety. I want to be sensitive to the fact that this novel is heavily based on the life of the author's mother, and so to dismiss it as trauma porn is to deny the reality that many people do live lives of constant pain and suffering. If this hadn't been based on a real family, I would think it was cynically engineered to elicit an emotional response. Part of it for me was perhaps Betty's positioning here - always
Spoilera witness to extreme abuse, but never as victimized as her sisters
. I'm just not sure what that says. It's perhaps also the sheer amount of horrible things that happen while the text moves quickly on. Is it possible that that's an artistic choice meant to portray the relentlessness of abuse? Maybe, but as a reading experience it just didn't work for me. I also found the lack of reckoning with
SpoilerLandon's role
difficult to swallow. Betty
Spoilervalourized him to the very end, but he turned away from witnessing the abuse happening under his roof
. Some of the characters felt one-dimensional to me. All in all, an unpleasant read that I did not gel with.

Please heed the content warnings on this one. If you can think of something disturbing, it is probably graphically described here.

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