Review - "Worth" by Adrienne Wilder
Painful, horrific, achingly true and hopeful story
When Liam was twelve, his mother died right in front of him. He knew it was happening when she had the aneurysm, and knew life was about to change for him and his two younger brothers. Because he knew Richard, his estranged stepfather, the biological father of his two brothers, would come back into their lives. Abusive, drunken Richard always hated him, hated his repaired cleft palate.
And he was right.
Abused physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally, he made a deal with the devil at age 15. Do what you want with me, sell me, use me, but keep your hands off my little brothers. Richard agreed, and Liam could at least know he was doing what was right, even though he knew his mother would be so unhappy with him. But he can stand anything as long as Chris and Kevin are alright. Because Richard has already laid his hands on Kevin once, and the boy retreated into his own world, never really recovering from the vicious backhand, and although the doctors diagnose it as autism, Liam knows better. And fears what could happen. So he will stand between them and Richard until...well, just until.
And then Liam meets Jericho, one of the Lesser Bred, a cross breed between one of the Kin, the Dragons of the city of Atlanta, and a human. See, they live in the Gray Zone, a buffer between the Den of the Queen of Atlanta and the city proper, a place populated by humans, Kin and the Lesser Bred. Anything goes, but the Zone has its own peculiar moral code, and the boys are safe, for the most part. But Jericho calls to something in Liam, awakening a sexual want that he thought long extinguished. So he begins to see Jericho.
But when Richard reneges on the deal he has with Liam and Chris and Kevin are threatened, he knows he has to take action. But how will he manage to keep his brothers safe, deal with the strange urges and changes he seems to be having and stay alive all at the same time? And will Jericho help him, be the one for him to lean on, be more than sex?
This is a stunning, gritty and powerful tale of survival, pain and, oddly enough, hope. Adrienne Wilder has created a worthy sequel to "To Adam With Love", the first book of her Gray Zone Chronicles, with this book.
Having worked with abused and neglected adolescents for the past ten years, the descriptions and events came as no great surprise to me. I have sat with children abused, raped, beaten, sold into prostitution, and heard them describe their ordeals, and this rang so achingly true. What stunned me and had me putting the book down to breathe was its emotional honesty and integrity - how the victim can set aside the abuse and try to protect others, how the devastation becomes the norm, the profane the commonplace. In a world of inhumanity, the small things, like simple hugs, can bring you to tears.
There are terrifyingly disturbing things that happen in this world that Ms. Wilder has built, but what is amazing is, the Dragons make a beautiful kind of sense. They are alien, morally different, complex and outside our world. To be watched warily and kept at arms length. But the truly evil things are at the hands of our fellow humans. THAT is the horror story here. And what a way to drive it home.
Painful. Hard to read. Be strong, this ride is worth the price of admission.