**This book was reviewed for Sourcebooks/Fire via Netgalley, and for Barclay Publicity
The Way It Hurts is told through the alternating viewpoints of Kristen and Elijah. Kristen is a singer and actor. Elijah is part of a rock band called Ride Out. He hears Kristen sing at a high school performance of Cats and wants her talent in his band. After foolishly posting a tweet without considering the full ramifications, he approaches her and asks if she’ll join them. She finally decided to give it a try, hoping for something unique to add to applications to conservatories. As things progress, the initial tweet posted by Elijah, later added to in deliberate publicity efforts by both Kristen and himself, gets wildly out of control, leading to threats and more than one physical assault on Kristen. Eventually this and severe miscommunications lead to a break between the pair. What will it take to repair the damage done?
Blount’s The Way It Hurts is a spectacular read addressing a number of issues pertinent to young adults (and adults) in the world today. Chief among these is communication, played out on so many different levels. It ties to the nature of social networks, which may connect thousands of people, but they often do the opposite of fostering useful communication, especially when the face to face or verbal aspects of communication are cut off. You cannot see the people you would hurt with words, so it’s okay. Misunderstandings are common, too, once nonverbal cues and verbal inflection is removed. The fracturing of such communication allows the nasty, the vicious, the crude, to come to the foreground because they tend to be the loudest… like annoying yappy dogs barking at nothing. Music as a method of communication is very strong, especially in regards to Anna and Maggie, who are autistic. Elijah can converse with Anna through music alone. Also stressed is the need to be direct in our communication, to speak what we truly feel. How much interpersonal conflict could be averted if both parties were open with one another instead of leaving things to guesswork. We will always guess based on how we would react, but that other person isn’t us and wasn’t shaped by the same things that shaped us.
Another broad issue is perception, which Elijah comments on. There’s no truth, only perception. By ignoring certain things, it allowed them to mushroom instead of collapse because people are gossips and will make stuff up happily if they are not provided accounts by the people in question. Perception comes into play again in regards to how people view certain things, say heavy metal music, without taking time to understand it.
Falling under these two broad issues are a host of others like ageism (Etta is awesome!), sexism, perpetuation of rape culture, and discrimination against the disabled. I was horrified with people’s reactions to Anna, and later Maggie, disgusted that they should think these girls have no right to be out in public at all. It happens all too often in the real world.