Review of Dear Medusa

Dear Medusa Dear Medusa
by Olivia A. Cole
High School    Labyrinth Road/Random    384 pp.
3/23    9780593485736    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780593485750    $10.99

For troubled sixteen-year-old Alicia, the past year has been one of betrayal (she was cut out of her best friend’s life “like a tumor”), parental divorce and dysfunction, and social isolation and slut-shaming. Sexual assault by a revered teacher has thrown her into a personal and academic tailspin, leaving her enraged and disillusioned with the adult world. Only through connections with new friends and with a girls’ discussion group is Alicia able to see beyond her psychic pain and forge a stronger, healthier sense of self. Racial and cultural awareness (Alicia is white; new friend Deja is Black; another new friend, Geneva, is Pakistani and white) and the highlighting of multiple forms of sexuality and the power of women supporting women help broaden the story’s scope beyond its indictment of pervasive predatory male behavior. Alicia’s visceral first-person free-verse narrative, full of acerbic and angry barbs, makes for difficult reading at times. Readers are privy to all that she is processing, including her destructive choices and her inability to ask for the support she needs. Interspersed letters to the mythological Medusa express Alicia’s modern-day emotions: “A woman doesn’t get… / so mad that her hair turns to snakes / so mad that her rage turns blood to boulder / so mad that she withdraws into a cave and dares the world to follow / all on her own.” Being able to sit down with compassionate peers and talk about things makes a world of difference.

Pubissue-From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

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