The Word Game by Steena Holmes
Due to a traumatic event in her past, mom Alyson Ward keeps a protective and close watch over her ten-year-old daughter, Lyla. So when she allows Lyla to go on her first sleepover--to another friend's house--it's a big deal for Aly. Her fears are somewhat calmed by the fact that Lyla will be staying with Aly's sister Tricia and a group of her friends from dance class. All in all, it seems like a fun sleepover. But after Aly picks Lyla up, she has some troubling things to tell her Mom. Have Aly's worst fears come true after all?
This book was a quick read with a timely plot. It's always horrific to read about abuse, especially at it relates to children. In many ways, I would have enjoyed this book more if Aly was simply an overprotective parent and the story unfolded based on what happened at the sleepover, without involving Aly and Tricia's past. The novel unwinds from both their perspectives, as well as that of their mother, Ida, and their friend, Myah, who teaches the girls' dance class. For me, the messed up family tale involving Aly, Tricia, and Ida simply became too much after a while - the constant bickering and allusions "to things in the past." When all is revealed, it's shocking and horrible yes, but really just poorly overshadows what was otherwise a fairly well-written and interesting (albeit sad and horrific) story about the women's daughters.
Also, while we get a lot of arguing among the elder sisters and their mom, and whispers about their troublesome upbringing and childhood, there's no real character development, so I wound up feeling more annoyed by them (especially Tricia and her mom) versus sympathetic. It seems especially appalling that no one listens to Aly -- you'd think one would rather be safe than sorry when the subject is potential child abuse.
I'm giving this three stars for the story that focuses more on the younger generation and Myah, but feel the book needed to better deal with Alyson and Tricia's backstory and character development.
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