I Stop Somewhere

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
I Stop Somewhere Book Poster Image
Haunting, heartbreaking tale of teen rape and murder.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Notes at the end provide resources for survivors of rape, sexual assault. A series of discussion questions encourages thinking in depth and analytically about the issues raised and writing techniques used, fosters a deeper personal connection to the story and characters. An excerpt at the front of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," including the book's title, may encourage teens to look up the poem.

Positive Messages

Entire story is a negative example of how society perceives and treats people based on gender, social status. Narrator Ellie just wants to be a normal girl who fits in. She and other female characters struggle with their reports of rape, sexual assault not being believed. Roles of class, social rank are explored; wealthy young men enjoy lots of privilege, are more readily believed than their victims. Strong messages about not missing chance to make sure loved ones know you love them. Teens sometimes make bad decisions when their bodies, minds, emotions are in constant turmoil. It's hard to make yourself do the right thing, or even know what that is, when there's so much conflict inside you. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ellie, 15, is a good kid who does well in school, gets along well with her dad. She can be pretty self-centered, but inspires empathy because she's lonely, and believes the only way to prove that she's a real, actual person who matters is by being loved by someone. So she goes along with more and more iffy activities because she's so happy to have been chosen by someone. Ellie's dad is loving, caring, but inadvertently let Ellie's teen years create distance between them. A reporter and a police officer, both women, are good models for trying to do what's right and helping as best they can. 

Violence

Entire plot is about two brothers who repeatedly raped, killed a classmate. They also serially raped, beat other teen girls. Few direct descriptions of the violence itself; most is implied or described vaguely but with a pervasive sense of horror and dread, using phrases like "being invaded" and "torn apart." Blood's mentioned a few times. Description of a hard slap to the face, and having a face slammed into the floor hard enough to cause a nosebleed. Mention of screaming, crying. Sensation of being choked, what it feels like to die are described.

Sex

Kissing and making out vaguely described with emotions and physical sensations. Implied oral sex, mention that "his hands were on me ... in me ...," taking clothes off, caressing underneath clothes; talking about being ready for sex. 

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "d--k," "ass," "slut," "bitch," "hell," "retarded," and "boobs."

Consumerism

A few mentions of social media like YouTube and Facebook.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ellie breaks into her dad's locked liquor cabinet, takes a bottle, gets very drunk, ends up almost having sex in a car. Consequences have to do with Ellie's emotions, her relationship with Caleb, later establishing her character at a trial. A tormentor's breath smells like alcohol. Ellie holds a warm beer she doesn't want at a party. Minor adult characters are described smoking once.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Stop Somewhere is a dark and emotionally intense story with a teen's brutal rape and murder as the center of the plot. The crime was committed by a pair of brothers who serially raped and beat young women over more than a year. Descriptions of the violence aren't graphic or detailed, but a few specifics are mentioned, like hitting and a face being slammed into the floor. Sexual content like kissing and making out is also vague and not graphic but mentions things like letting fingers in and implied oral sex. Emotions and a few physical sensations during sexual activity are described. Strong language isn't frequent but includes "f--k," "s--t," and "d--k." Lots of the issues explored can be difficult to talk about, but the novel's a good way to get into discussions with teens at a time when many of the issues are foremost in their thoughts and feelings. Thought-provoking issues raised include Ellie's idea that she only exists as a valuable person if she's loved by someone; expectations and prejudices based on gender, wealth, and social status; what it is to be a girl; what's really important in life; rape and how the justice system handles it; consent; and lots more.

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What's the story?

In I STOP SOMEWHERE, Ellie is starting at a new high school, and all she wants is to blend in with the normal kids. So she asks her neighbor, Kate, who's a few years older, to help her find the right clothes, hair, and makeup to make her acceptable so she'll fit in. Ellie succeeds well enough to attract the attention of Caleb, the popular scion of a prominent local businessman. Soon, Ellie and Caleb are officially a couple, and Ellie thinks she's on track to finally prove that she's worth something because someone loves her. But nothing with Caleb goes quite right, or turns out how she imagines it will. Until the night it all goes horribly, horribly wrong. So many lives in this crumbling, small town in New York state will never be the same again.

Is it any good?

TE Carter's debut novel is a haunting, sometimes lyrical, heartbreaking story that deals with rape and sexual assault. Ellie's well-developed, complicated character is a good starting point to get families talking about what can be difficult for many. Particularly important to teens are messages about listening when your inner voice isn't comfortable with what's going on, how hard it is to avoid mistakes even as you know you're making them, what makes you a worthwhile person, and how you can know and believe in your own value as a person.

As beautiful as Carter's use of language often is, I Stop Somewhere is almost as much a book about what's not said as it is about what's directly narrated. Vague descriptions of the violence leave more to the imagination, enhancing the horror and dread. Descriptions of teen sexual activity are also vague, yet really home in on the emotions and thoughts as Ellie experiences them. The story is well structured, although the twist comes a bit soon, and the poignant ending satisfies. Best for teens ready to tackle a tough topic through a complicated, deep, and thought-provoking character.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in I Stop Somewhere, especially rape and sexual assault. Ellie's story is a clear demonstration of how you can want to, or think you want to, have sex with someone and still be brutalized by that person. How can the criminal justice system handle these types of cases better? How can we as a society handle them better?

  • Why do you think people more easily believed Caleb and Noah than the young women who came forward? Were their verdicts fair and was justice done? Why or why not?

  • What about the strong language? Is it realistic? Is reading profanity different from hearing it, or using it yourself? Why?

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