Author Melanie Thorne has written an intimate, personal novel, “Hand Me Down,” based on many of her own experiences in a home where dysfunction was the norm and not the exception. Recounting events that carry difficult memories, Thorne lets the reader see into the heart of a family torn by alcoholism, deceit and abuse while exhibiting the power one committed teen can have in the welfare of a whole family.
Elizabeth "Liz" Reid is 14 and should be thinking about boys, movies and the latest fashion trends. But her mom’s new husband has triggered a survival mode that forces Liz to worry more about her little sister, Jaime, and the circumstances both girls must endure. Terrance, her new stepfather, has just been released from jail, where he was serving time for criminal sex abuse, and Liz knows she and Jaime will have to be very careful when he’s around.
Recognizing that if she and Jaime stay with their mother and her new husband things will not turn out well, Liz hopes that her mom will make the right choice. But when the state orders that Terrance cannot live in the same home as the girls, Liz is devastated as her mother decides to send the girls away rather than ask her husband to leave.
After a series of short stays with friends and family members, Liz is allowed to live with her Aunt Tammy in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. Tammy, her mom’s successful younger sister, is exactly what Liz hopes to become, and life in her Utah high school is more than she could ever imagine. But there always seems to be some insurmountable obstacle on her way to happiness.
Liz is constantly grappling with how she can protect Jaime when their only contact is by phone, if their mom will make the her and her sister come back to a situation that is going from bad to worse and how will the alcoholic machinations of Liz’s real father affect the prospects for the her and her sister's futures.
“Hand Me Down” is a gritty tale of a determined young woman who really wants to make a better life for herself and protect the little sister she dearly loves. It is also a story of triumph over desperation and the ignorance of those who live in the world of selfishness. The experiences shared by Thorne have the feel of reality and propel the reader into the mind of a teen hoping to overcome the mistakes of her parents.
There are several uses of foul language (including the R-rated word), and some of the scenes portray predatory sexual behavior though not explicit. Parents should preview this book before determining if it's appropriate for teenagers or other young readers.
if you go ...
What: Melanie Thorne book signing
When: Thursday, May 3, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City