Boundaries

Scope of Practice Book One

Fiction - Mystery - Murder
298 Pages
Reviewed on 06/06/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

Novels based on childhood abuse have a special place in my heart, particularly if the victims manage to eventually put their pasts behind them and use their experience to help others. Jessica Aiken-Hall, the author of Boundaries, is one such survivor. I remember reading and reviewing her previous book, The Monster Who Ate my Mommy. I was curious to see what angle she would take to further explore sexual abuse in Boundaries and was delighted to see she has created a completely new story with a new protagonist. With Valerie, a social worker who keeps herself away from people in a basement morgue, the author has gone even deeper into where and how some survivors might feel as adults. Do they just stay quiet and keep their painful secrets hidden forever? Do they ever wish they could punish the abusers? Would any of them dare to exact punishment, even kill for revenge? Thought-provoking.

When Valerie is forced into working with a handful of women in a trauma support group, once comfortable with each other, the ladies begin opening up. Their stories are horrible; each feels the other’s pain. One woman, Sonya, brings up how she wishes she could make the abuser pay for his crime. With each woman’s story, Valerie feels herself being triggered and memories of her own abuse surface. Adding to her growing anger is the brutal, but unsolved death of a beautiful young woman, Carmen, and Carmen’s addict mother. Valerie feels compelled to get to the bottom of Carmen’s murder. Readers will be surprised by her findings, but the bigger surprise is how all this violence ultimately affects Valerie herself.

Jessica Aiken-Hall is an excellent writer and has a gift for letting a plot unfold itself through the dialogue of its characters. Her engaging style is easy to follow and her characters are believable. In these days of trafficking, sexual abuse, and internet predators, books like Boundaries need to be written and read by both survivors and those who work with them to help them put their lives back together after others have torn them apart. If you belong to either group, read Boundaries.

Ankita Shukla

Valerie's reluctance to bond with people suited her perfectly in her job as a Deceased Patient Coordinator in Lawrenceville Regional Hospital's social services department. So, when her boss told her to start a weekly trauma support group, she despised the idea. Still struggling with her past, she did not feel qualified to run such a group. Yet, this trauma group led to an elevated sense of justice inside her, so much so that the professional boundaries blurred after each meeting. Apart from this, the death of a 19-year-old girl, Carmen, stirred something inside Valerie. Even though the police marked her death as a suicide and closed the case, Carmen's mother, Jane, was confident that it was murder. For some reason, Valerie could not shake the feeling that Jane was right. Boundaries by Jessica Aiken-Hall demonstrates the after-effects of hideous crimes on the psyche of the survivors.

Jessica Aiken-Hall conveys the required sensitivity in describing such issues. The scars of these heinous crimes remain with the survivors for years. The women in the support group exhibit those signs in different ways. While Maggie resorts to fear and grief, Sonya uses her anger as a coping mechanism. As for Val, even after twenty years, she could not regain her trust in people. The pain of the characters seeps through the narration. However, the romantic endeavors of Tim and Val reaffirm the belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Thus, the plot brings hope and optimism. In addition to portraying intricate human emotions, Boundaries is a web of twists. The reader pities the woman who suffered appalling injustice and remained silent for years. And then, suddenly, that woman changes course and leaves the reader wondering about the transformation. Boundaries entertained me. Infused with murder-mystery, and romance, Boundaries by Jessica Aiken-Hall would appeal to readers who enjoy nail-biting twists.

Risah Salazar

Valerie Williamson, or just Val, is dubbed by her colleagues at Lawrenceville Regional Hospital as The Anti-social Social Worker. For sixteen years, she has closed off her world to everyone but her cat, Gabriel, after going through a traumatic event. Now, at thirty-four, she can't say her life is perfect, but at least her job as a deceased patient coordinator keeps her going. Everything changes when her boss tells her that she will be leading a trauma support group. She is startled by this because, first of all, she is more comfortable dealing with the dead than with the living, and second, how can she comfort people with trauma when she herself can't even talk about her past? Then, there's this suicide case of a nineteen-year-old girl that's keeping her awake at night. And the detective who's been patient with her all these years is growing on her. With all this, can Val keep her boundaries in check?

The fact that Boundaries carries trigger warnings is commendable; that is how it should be, especially when dealing with sensitive topics. A whirlwind of murder mystery, cheesy romance, and family drama, Jessica Aiken-Hall's Boundaries both shocks and comforts. It teaches everyone how to properly take care of people and at the same time shows that, sometimes, the best way is to take matters into your own hands as the justice system is rubbish. It's heavy yet inspiring; it's dark but it's beautiful, equipped with the right pacing, angst, and a bit of comedy. Being the first installment in the Scope of Practice series, Boundaries holds a lot of promise and puts pressure on the next one.