My Name is Venus Black
By Heather Lloyd
Release Date: 2/27/18
Publisher: Dial Press
Genre: YA Fiction
I think about this a lot lately, trying to figure out how I got here. I trace my life back in time, looking for all those places in the past where, if I could change one key detail, I would never have seen what I saw or done what I did that terrible February night.
Venus Black is a straitlaced, straight-A student obsessed with the phenomena of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, suddenly goes missing.
Five years later, Venus emerges from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past.
In this gripping story, debut novelist Heather Lloyd brilliantly captures ordinary lives upended by extraordinary circumstances. Told through a constellation of captivating voices, My Name Is Venus Black explores the fluidity of right and wrong, the meaning of love and family, and the nature of forgiveness.
My Name is Venus Black tells the unpleasant story of 13-year-old Venus Black who has been locked up for a terrible crime that makes national headlines and devastates her family. During her incarceration, Venus struggles with the events that have occurred, blaming her mother and refusing to speak of what has happened or maintain a relationship with her. Tragically, before her release, her younger brother Leo, who the story indicates is autistic, disappears. 5 years later, Venus finds herself thrust back into the real world attempting to scrape together any semblance of a life while coping with the fact that Leo has never returned, and she no longer knows where she belongs.
Told mainly from Venus’ perspective, this was a unique character study that explores what happens when individuals find themselves trapped in terrific circumstances. Venus has done something awful but initially we are not given full details of what has occurred. What is received is a young, angry and closed off teenager who offers little insight. Establishing a connection with Venus is a slow process, but also one that I found to be ultimately rewarding. The author removes those factors of influence and allows us to explore her as an individual before fully divulging what she has done and why.
This is a slower paced story that manages to successfully capture the tension and angst surrounding the characters and their suffering and loss. The plot unfolds through events involving both Venus and Leo. Clever manipulation of time line and revelations provide an experience that feels not only original but gratifying. Narration is clearly defined and fluid, facilitating a somewhat fast read even with the slower pacing. I did find certain moments harder to digest than others, as the topics addressed are heavy ones and possible triggers for some readers. So while I try to avoid spoilers please be aware that there are difficult elements and themes contained within.
Heather Lloyd manages to engage the reader on all emotional fronts while refraining from coaxing them in any specific direction. She simply provides a solid, incredible story and leaves us to our own devices. And it works brilliantly. My only minor complaint might be that the conclusion was the one instance of Venus’ story that felt slightly disconnected from reality, but I highly recommend this to fans of character driven titles with heavy emotional aspects!
*I would like to thank Dial Press & Netgalley for this copy. The review above is my own, unbiased & honest opinion.
Enjoyed with a nice cup of Earl Grey & lavender tea.