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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
“My body is an instrument. It transfers pain to melody so well.” Typically, non-fiction books about abuse – physical, mental, and emotional – are written from an observer’s point of view, even if the observer is the victim. Don’t Hit Me! by Vanessa de Largie is in no way your typical book. This is not an analytical discussion. It most certainly is not dry. You are still on the outside looking in, but the way an inner self observes the outer: wondering how in the world this can be me. As if an alternate personality is running things and the real me can only watch, resulting in a feeling of barely constrained panic. The choice is not to flee or stay, but whether to let oneself go insane. The victim here is the author, who makes an analogy to war, and it is not trite. She exists in a state of continuous vulnerable alertness; a state of continuous abiding fear.
In this remarkably intimate confession – penned from a journal written contiguously with the torture and humiliation heaped on her from the boyfriend she claims to love – Don’t Hit Me! reveals Vanessa de Largie’s intrinsic assumption of personal helplessness, becoming more a quiet plea for intervention or for you simply to recognize her existence. This becomes both heartrending and horrific in the way she styles her writing – a book arising from the snippets of momentary screams she allows herself to journal privately: short, diary-like epithets, agonizing poetic lacerations, blasts of self-harassment, and between the lines of all of these ... the silence of her tears. And while she brushes at an explanation from her past, it is only a passing observation, one that has no power of transformation for the role in which she finds herself, or an escape from the glass at which his dirty hands scratch and smudge. Perhaps the most plaintive cry of all echoes in the reader’s mind long after closing this small book: “Why can’t I be that normal girl?”