Waaaay back in December the lovely Lucy at Scholastic sent me a bunch of wonderful books, and one of these was the fantastic Crush by Eve Ainsworth, a gritty, heartbreaking, fiercely-written novel about an abusive teen relationship. (I was sent Crush in exchange for an honest review).
Crush follows fourteen-year-old Anna - who lives in a tiny flat on a rough estate with her Dad and her little brother Eddie. Things have been tough since her Mum left, and daily life is littered with constant fights with her Dad and the pain of cleaning up after her little brother. Life at home for Anna is tiring and unhappy, and Anna can't wait for the day when she can leave the flat and the estate and do what she wants to do with her life.
Then Anna catches the eye of Will - the year 11, the popular boy in school, the boy every girl fancies, the boy every guy wants to be. When Will admits his feelings for Anna, she can't believe it. Why would a guy like Will fancy a girl like her? For the first time in what seems like forever, Anna is happy. But when things start to take a dark turn, Anna finds herself in too deep, stuck in a position where she can't find a way out. How did something so good turn into something so destructive?
Sound intriguing? Check out the blurb here...
Love hurts ...but should it hurt this much?
Reeling from her mum's sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He's handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of. He's also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends and her music.
He wants her to be his and his alone.
He wants her to be perfect.
Anna's world is closing in.
But threatening everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control...
Eve Ainsworth's gripping second novel is a pitch-perfect exploration of love at its most powerful, addictive and destructive.
Going into Crush, I had no idea it was about abusive relationships until I read the reviews on Goodreads. The beautiful, intricately detailed cover really plays well into the subtle showcasing of a toxic relationship under the disguise of love. I think Crush is a powerfully written, emotional, essential book that every teenager, male and female, should read.
From the very first page, I really warmed to the character of Anna. I thought she was intelligent, interesting, and realistic. The best kind of YA novels are those that portray teenagers fairly and authentically, and Ainsworth definitely achieved this in Crush. I thought the dialogue was spot-on, and Anna's frustrations at her Dad, her teachers and her therapist were realistic for Anna's age, and really brought to the forefront how much she had been brainwashed by Will. There was such psychological depth to Anna and this made for a powerful reading experience.
At times I just wanted to shake Anna and make her see what Will was doing to her, however her unawareness at what was going on was a realistic depiction of many abusive relationships. Ainsworth clearly illustrated through Crush that when you're in love with someone, it can be near impossible to realise how destructive some behaviour can be. While reading it was obvious to me that Ainsworth had worked with teenagers who had gone through experiences like this - the writing was not only emotionally realistic, but confident and assured in its telling of this tragic, but all too common tale.
I thought the characterisation was fantastic and I really warmed to the characters of Izzy and Dan (they could star in their own book!) The one thing I would change about Crush would be that there was a bigger build up at the beginning of the book, so we could get to know Anna before she knew Will. I wanted to see what her friendship was like with Izzy before Will poisoned it, and what her time with the band and Dan was like. I feel like if we got to get to know Anna before she was in a relationship with Will, then the book would have packed that extra emotional punch.
Apart from that, the plot worked really well and it was so powerful the way the abuse became more and more blatant for the reader. At first the remarks made by Will may have been missed by a younger reader (I have been keeping up with Helen and Rob's story in The Archers, so I have become accustomed to spotting all the signs) but gradually as the novel went on and the story grew darker and more complex it was really powerful to see Anna finally come to terms with what was happening to her. It was fantastically handed by Ainsworth and the ending was all I was hoping for. Even though this is a novel with a clear societal message and a dark reality, it is evident that above everything Eve Ainsworth is a terrific writer and storyteller, and knows how to keep her readers engrossed until the very last page.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Crush and I definitely want to pick up Ainsworth's other YA novel, Seven Days. If you are yet to check Eve Ainsworth out, I would recommend that you do!
Buy Crush here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crush-Eve-Ainsworth/dp/1407146904
Check Eve Ainsworth out here: http://eveainsworth.com/
Until next time :)