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Fault Line by Janet Tashjian

Fault Line

by Janet Tashjian

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Richie's Picks: FAULTLINE by Janet Tashjian, Henry Holt, September 2003, ISBN 0-8050-7200-4

"I looked her in the eye, dead-on. 'We love each other. It's that simple.'
"This time [Mom] looked as if she were hiding a smile. 'It's never that simple,' she said. 'Being in a relationship is the most complicated thing in the world.' "

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline website:

"Teens are seriously at risk for dating violence. Research shows that physical or sexual abuse is a part of 1 in 3 high school relationships. In 95% of abusive relationships, men abuse women. However, young women can be violent, and young men can also be victims. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans teens are just as at risk for abuse in their relationships as anyone else. Abusive relationships have good times and bad times. Part of what makes dating violence so confusing and painful is that there is love mixed with the abuse. This can make it hard to tell if you are really being abused."

Health Canada's website notes:

"Jealousy is the most common reason for assaults in dating relationships. When a man continually accuses a woman of flirting or having an affair, and is suspicious of everyone he sees with her, he is possessive and controlling...Adolescent girls, in particular, feel social pressure to stick it out because having a 'bad' boyfriend is better than having no boyfriend at all."

Such facts and statistics certainly point out the need for good YA literature dealing with adolescent dating abuse. There have been a couple of great stories published in recent years, and Janet Tashjian's FAULTLINE, which hits the shelves in time for Back To School Night, joins that list of must-reads.

Becky Martin is a high achieving high school senior from San Francisco who is also an aspiring standup comic. She's got intelligent, supportive parents. Her best girlfriend, Abby, is also a comedic hopeful and a fan of old movies. But while Abby has a steady stream of boyfriends who come and go, Becky has spent high school high and dry:

"Friends and family have always described me as two things: smart and funny. Never pretty, never interesting, just smart and funny. I wasn't complaining--those were necessary qualities for my chosen line of work, but it would be nice to at least register on the attractiveness scale once in a while.
"Unlike Abby, I hadn't had a boyfriend since Peter last year, and even that was stretching the definition of boyfriend way past anything Webster would have recognized. I had better luck holding the attention of a roomful of people in a comedy club than a guy--I couldn't decide if that was good or just plain pathetic. Idea for a routine--in my neighborhood growing up, I was everybody else's invisible friend."

Enter Kip Costello, a fellow aspiring comic with talent, creativity, and looks. He sweeps Becky off her feet with his attention and his thoughtfulness. Things move quickly. Becky has school work, two part-time jobs, college applications, and her comedy career, but they all seem (at least to her parents and Abby) to be taking a back-seat to Kip.

According to Becky, nobody understands how special her relationship with Kip is.

But what Becky doesn't understand is that Kip is as lacking in self-confidence as she is. In a series of brief notes that Kip writes to himself (and that we get to read), Kip constantly worries about the relationship. His micromanagement of Becky's life and the inherent frustration he feels when everything doesn't go perfectly results in his abusing her. But Becky is in too deep to listen to anybody--including herself.

"A relationship is a lot like a hot bath. The more you get used to it, the more you realize it's not so hot..."

FAULTLINE is a great title for this important book because (1) it's set in San Francisco, and (2) there is no bad guy, no one at fault, unless it is that system that compels adolescents "to stick it out because having a 'bad' boyfriend is better than having no boyfriend at all." I'm sure they briefly considered PUNCHLINE, but discarded it as too insensitive a pun for too serious a situation.

But that serious situation does not mean that FAULTLINE is one long downer of a book. The camaraderie between Becky and Abby is genuine. We like these two intelligent and comedic girls and can see why they like each other. Becky's part-time gig as a tour guide to the City's movie landmarks is also fun and really informative. And then there is Delilah, about whom I'll say no more then that she gives the book a San Francisco homeyness that us Northern California crazies will thoroughly appreciate and enjoy.

Many people have wondered how Janet Tashjian would follow up the wildly successful THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LARRY. While FAULTLINE is a very different novel, Tashjian is again able to look closely at a serious problem in our society while telling a story filled with smart humor that teens will devour.

Richie Partington
BudNotBuddy@aol.com ( )
  richiespicks | Jun 16, 2009 |
This was one of the last of the 2008 Abraham Lincoln Award nominees that I chose to read. The book description did not appeal to me - how funny could a high school stand up comedian actually be?

As I began Tashjian's story, I really started to like the protagonist, and I wanted her to succeed. Her new relationship was exciting, and I wanted them to work out. As her boyfriend gets more and more controlling, however, she starts to realize she needs to leave. As with most cases of abuse, the victim thinks she's at fault.

This is an important book for young people to read, and the conclusion is more than satisfying. ( )
  readerspeak | Feb 26, 2008 |
Becky is a smart, funny, driven seventeen-year-old. When she meets Kip, an aspiring comic, she totally falls for him. Although when he starts to make her choose between him and her friends, becomes more and more controlling, and seems to turn on her for no reason, she starts to wonder if this is the relationship for her.
Interspersed throughout the narrative are notes-to-self Becky makes and Kip's journal entries that give more insight into what each character is thinking. A powerful exploration of an abusive dating relationship. ( )
  ewyatt | Aug 21, 2007 |
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Laughter is one of the only things in life you can count on to bail you out of anything.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805080635, Paperback)

Seventeen-year-old Becky Martin never thought she'd be one of THOSE girls. After all, she doesn't fit the profile. She has two loving parents, close friends who care about her, even a great gig as an amateur comic in the San Francisco comedy club scene. Becky has always considered herself too smart and too driven to ever become involved in an abusive relationship. But up-and-coming comic Kip Costello is impossible to resist. He's cute, hilarious, and worships stand-up as much as she does. Yet, as Kip begins to demand more and more of her time and attention, Becky is forced to admit to herself that her relationship isn’t as perfect as she works so hard to make other people believe. "No matter how much work I did in the relationship, it was never enough. Making him happy was my top priority, but it seemed like the harder I tried, the more I failed." The time for jokes is over as Becky faces some serious and hard truths about Kip, their relationship, and her own hidden insecurities. Janet Tashjian's refreshingly different take on a sobering and pervasive issue for teens rings solidly true. By adding Kip’s often agonizing diary entries to Becky’s narrative, Tashjian has crafted a novel that promotes both empathy and understanding about adolescent abusive relationships. (Ages 14 to 18) --Jennifer Hubert

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:31 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Seveteen-year-old Becky Martin, an aspiring comic, must find the courage to get the help she needs when her boyfriend Kip, a rising star in the San Francisco comedy club scene, becomes emotionally and physically abusive.

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