I am always a bit wary to pick up a book narrated in verse because my experiences are that those books either blow your mind and make you think about them for days or really disappoint you and make you regret ever picking them up. Fortunately, Madeleine Kuderick's deput Kiss of Broken Glass fits to the first category. The story of Kenna, a 15-year-old girl who cuts herself, is haunting, realistic, beautiful and extremely touching. The verse flows beautifully, keeping the reader intrigued throughout, showing that sometimes you don't need a lot of words to make an impact. You just need the right words.
Kenna lives in Florida, where the Florida Mental Health Act (known as Baker Act) allows the involuntary institutionalization of individual for up to 72 hours if it is determined that the person might be harmful to himself/herself or to others. When she's found from the school bathroom cutting herself, she's taken to an institution and locked up with other troubled youngsters. There's Skylar, a girl who also cuts and fights with other problems too; Donya, who's on suicide watch; and Jag, who instantly makes Kenna forget her crush from school. Through therapy sessions and Kenna's encounters with the other characters the reader is faced with issues that are difficult but not hopeless.
The verse narrative jumps between the present day (Kenna at the institution) and the situations from her past that drove her to cutting. The reader gets to see how peer pressure and the desire to be included in something drove Kenna into her actions. In the contemporary society with social media, I feel like it is increasingly important that books like this are written and offered to young readers. Kuderick does not glorify the problems Kenna is going through but does not preach about them either. She writes realistically, showing both sides of the coin. There's no miraculous cure, no instant help. Getting better is a process, one that you have to work for.
While reading Kuderick's words, I was constantly touched by the honesty and reality of them. I kept wondering whether the author writing from her own experience because it really felt like she knew what she was talking about. From the author's note I noticed that she actually got the idea for the novel from the experiences of her own daughter who started cutting during 6th grade and eventually was committed under the Baker Act. So though the novel is purely work of fiction, it does have a real-life event as an inspiration. Kuderick also mentions in her note that she did research on Tumblr and other sites in which young people dealing with issues of self-harm discuss their problems, which I think really shows from the text because the voice of Kenna is like a voice of a teenager, not like a voice of a mother who's daughter is cutting.
Though you only know these characters for a while, you form a bond with them, especially with Kenna, and you start to wonder what will happen to her in the future. Will she get better? Will she relapse? Like some people in real life, she becomes a person you are touched by for a short period time and never hear about again. She's like a person you remember occasionally from your past and think about for a while, hoping that she/he is doing alright. You go on with your life, but once in a while, it's there - the memory of someone you used to know and the hope that that person is doing alright.