Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Publication Date: September 2014
After police intervention, fifteen-year-old Joy has finally escaped the trailer where she once lived with her mother and survived years of confinement and abuse. Now living with her aunt, uncle and cousins in a comfortable house, she’s sure she’ll never belong. Wracked by panic attacks, afraid to talk to anyone at her new school, Joy’s got a whole list of reasons why she’s crazy. With immense courage, Joy finds friends and grows closer to her new family. But just when hope is taking hold, she learns she must testify in her mother’s trial. Can she face her old life without losing her way in the new one? Will she ever truly belong in a world that seems too normal to be real?
Stronger than you know by Jolene Perry, is a story about a girl, Joy Neilsons, who has gone through a lot in the course of her fifteen years of living. When I first started reading the book, I thought it would be an average story (at best), and as a result, I was reluctant to let myself enjoy it. I skipped the first few pages, figuring they would be boring, and so I started from page 31, when Joy was having one of her frequent nightmares.
The fact that I had skipped the first pages (which happen to be the most vital parts of a book) was still weighing on my mind, so, after nearly finishing the story, I went back to the beginning: to page one. There, I realised that right before the first chapter, in the form of a child services summary report, is a short profile on the main character, Joy. Joy had been abused by her mom and her mom’s various boyfriends; she had been neglected when not abused; she had virtually been on house arrest for most of her life; she was malnourished and starved. In fact, the only good thing going for her was the fact that she had received an education, and so was a smart child, even though it was through the home schooling system.
When Joy is discovered and finally released to her aunt’s family, her life goes through a radical change. She is made to visit a therapist, who talks to her and encourages her. She has to talk to people, especially her uncle and her peers; she has to get over her depressive countenance; and she has to know and be sure of the fact that she is loved.
One day, when walking to school, Joy meets Justin, a guy that would later become her (kind of) boyfriend, and help her handle her situation. She makes a lot of progress and makes some friends. She even gets closer to her uncle (someone she was wary of) and her cousins, and later realises that she is not crazy, but extraordinary and quite loved.
The book ends quite nicely, with Joy acknowledging the difference between happiness and joy, and knowing that it only takes strength to let joy in.
From reading the author’s acknowledgements, I found that she got inspiration for Joy Neilson’s story from a case her husband worked on in the past. Apparently, that particular case did not have a happy ending, so, she tried to make Joy’s story reflect a girl who is stronger that anyone knows, and have a truly joyful conclusion. And what do you know? Her plan worked!