Title: Hand Me Down
Author: Melanie Thorne
Release Date: April 12, 2012
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Elizabeth Reid is just fourteen years old and already has had to bear more responsibility than those twice her age. Her father is an abusive alcoholic, though Elizabeth has protected her little sister Jamie from the worst of his crimes. Her mother recently married Terrence, a former convicted sex offender, and Liz doesn’t like the way he looks at her. When Elizabeth’s mother is forced to choose between her new husband and her daughters, her decision breaks Elizabeth’s heart and makes it all the more difficult for Liz to protect Jamie from the world.
Hand Me Down is a difficult novel, made easier to bear by its lovely main character. Though Liz is just fourteen years old, she seems older in the book. She’s wiser than her years and has had to endure much hardship. Oftentimes, she has to be the adult; after all, her mother invited a sex offender into a home with two young girls, and when pressed to choose, decided on her husband. She can’t turn to her father because she knows that she and Jamie aren’t safe with him. A fourteen year old shouldn’t have to face these harsh realities, yet Liz does with grace. Somehow, she never pities herself, but instead tries to make the best of one bad situation after another.
The reader will want to throttle all of the adults involved in Hand Me Down. Thorne did an excellent job with her characters; readers will forget they’re merely people on a page. It’s amazing, yet completely believable, how selfish each of these adults are. Liz’s mother is really a piece of work, which is made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that she used to be a great mother, devoted to protecting her daughters. Even when Liz finds a seemingly good, stable home, the reader can tell it’s tenuous, and that things can change in an instant.
Though Hand Me Down was published as adult fiction, it has crossover appeal to the YA audience due to the age of the main character. It’s a semi-autobiographical debut novel that is absolutely worth reading. Though parts of it might make you lose your faith in humanity, readers will hope against all odds that Liz might find somewhere safe to call home.