She only has two books out, but Walton has already shown she has quite a penchant for telling contemporary stories populated with realistic, flawed characters, who are portrayed with so much honesty, they really feel like people you know. Or, at least, people you did know, when you were a young adult.
Dell is used to disappointment. Ever since her dad left, it’s been one let down after another. But no one—not even her best friend—gets all the pain she’s going through. So Dell hides behind self-deprecating jokes and forced smiles.
Then the one person she trusts betrays her. Dell is beyond devastated. Without anyone to turn to for comfort, her depression and self-loathing spin out of control. But just how far will she go to make all of the heartbreak and name-calling stop?
So, where do you even start with this book? And how do you even talk about it without breaking down?
Well, first, I suppose I would say that every human being who has ever lived understands suffering. It's different for all us, and sometimes it comes and goes, but suffering, and the pain that comes with it, is one of the few universal aspects of the human condition. It's somewhat less, I suppose, in modern day, for the average person, but it still exists, and it hurts the most when you're young, and you don't know what the rest of your life might hold, or if there is any reason to hope things might get better.
And that's why we tell stories, isn't it? To try to understand each other? To see if maybe there's someone out there who knows what we feel like? To prove that we're not alone? To show that things do get better?
Dell suffers from many normal teenage issues. Her dad is gone. Her mom is useless. She eats, to fill the hole that these two things have left behind inside her. She's like so many kids who have it tough.
But Walton writes her protagonist with such simple clarity. She pines for the popular guy. She loves but is often annoyed by and fed up with her best friend. She finds ridiculous, and often mocks, the games the popular people play, but really, like anyone, she just wants to be accepted, and she willingly denigrates herself in an impotent attempt to achieve that acceptance.
Her one solace, her one link to serenity, is her baby sister. The smell of whose hair Walton describes as perfect, in just such a way that it takes your knees out from under you. This book has a lot of moments like that. Moments in which things are humming along, just sort of telling a terribly tragic, but otherwise not extraordinary tale, and then something comes out of nowhere, and suddenly your gut is splayed open, and you're left sputtering, trying to calm down enough to read on.
Like most of Walton's work, it moves you to emotion early and often.
At this point, there isn't a whole lot more detail I can give, without spoiling the turning point, but I will say that Empty covers a lot of prevalent YA issues with honesty and courage, and while the tragedy of its story may well tear you apart in the long run, it's an important narrative, and a tale that needs to be told.
I recommend it to all readers who have a strong stomach, and the courage to read stories that are not always the easiest to digest.
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