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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Yeah, But I Didn't by Ann Swann is a coming of age novel chronicling a disturbing period in the life of a young girl named Benji (Ben) Stevens. At age 14, Ben has been advanced into high school as a result of a high IQ that pushes her beyond the level of classmates her age. While intellectually she is ahead of even her high school classmates, her young age and vulnerability make her an easy target. Once little more than a wallflower, an assault in her own home after artwork she created at school goes viral means the rumor mill begins to spin out of control. Cyberbullying by classmates and a brutal response from her own older sister Janie at home (compounded by another family tragedy) push Ben over the edge, prompting her to attempt the unthinkable. The road to recovery is difficult to navigate, but Ben and her family do their best to bring stability back into their lives. As they nurse a fragile Ben, each grapples with their own personal traumas and work to make themselves whole once more.
Yeah, But I Didn't is a difficult read due to its subject matter, but timely and relevant against the backdrop of what many teenagers and families experience in their real lives. Ann Swann writes Ben's story in a first-person narrative, allowing a reader to understand her struggles from within and experience the subplots, including an unexpected death and a runaway, as a stunned observer. There are multiple issues that are addressed in a short span of time and that keeps the book rolling forward at a sometimes dizzying pace, but it allows a reader to see how a devastating chain of events can snowball and threaten to crush an entire household. One thing that struck me was Ben's age and her positioning as a high school student at a time when she'd be with students her own age in an environment more suited for a younger teen. It's not an issue I've read much about and there's this feeling that Ben's intellect—her superpower, as she describes it—actually puts her at a disadvantage, throwing a kitten to a pack of wolves because there was literally nowhere else for her education to flourish as it needed. This doesn't factor into the central plot but, as a parent, I felt it intensely. This is a tough read but a good one, and an easy five stars.