Bruised, by Sarah Skilton (fiction) – trained to defend, frozen when it counts most

book cover of Bruised by Sarah Skilton published by AmuletShe’s a black belt.
She’s practiced and sparred and competed.
She freezes when true danger strikes.

The journey to black belt in Tae Kwon Do or any martial art is long and rigorous, but under controlled conditions with traditions and rules to follow.

Imogen mentally punishes herself for not springing into action when the gunman attacks – can she fight through survivor’s guilt to become a young woman of action and purpose again?

Just published this week, Bruised  follows Imo as she tries to rebuild her life to include Ricky’s love and fill the void left by Shelley’s departure for dance school and her own absence from Grandmaster Huan’s dojang.

How would you react when a situation bursts into violence?

Book info: Bruised / Sarah Skilton. Amulet Books, 2013. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: As the youngest female to earn a black belt at the dojang, Imogen was sure she could handle any attack. But the gunman at the diner proved her wrong, undid her whole life’s work as a defender of the helpless. How can she get past the blood-drenched scene when her mind has built a wall around the robbery gone wrong?

Tae Kwon Do is what she does, what she is, but she just froze at the diner, didn’t stop the robber before he pistol-whipped the cashier. She can remember hiding under a table, can remember the teen guy crouching under the next table, his new white shoes that became gory red and were taken as evidence, just like her bloodstained jeans. Gretchen called 911 from the bathroom, was smart enough to stay put – but Imogen should have been able to stop the situation before the guy was shot when he wouldn’t surrender.

She just can’t process what went wrong there. Can’t talk to former best friend Shelley who decided to hook up with her big brother at Imogen’s own birthday party, can’t pay attention in school, except during counseling sessions with Ricky, the guy from the diner whose shoes became bloody evidence. Her heart seems to be a lump in her chest now.

Being teased leads to a fight at school, to being asked by Grandmaster Huan not to return to the dojang until she can regain her emotional balance by truly living the ‘child rules’ at the foundation of Tae Kwon Do – respecting her parents (including her dad who let his diabetes put him in a wheelchair) and doing all her homework without being asked.

Who is Imogen without her time revolving around learning and teaching at the dojang?
How can Ricky like her or respect her when she failed to stop a death?
Why can’t she remember what happened between crouching under the table and being blood-soaked in the police car?

A compelling story of expectations versus reality, Imogen’s heart and psyche are so Bruised that moving on with life will take more courage than any Tae Kwon Do belt test she ever tried. (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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