Violet Hoffman is a planner. She’s had more than enough time—especially on holidays—to think this through. There’s really no point in turning back. Now, armed with a plan, Violet only needs to pull the trigger. She runs through her list of essentials: Motel room, check. Bottle of pills, check. Razor blades, check. Purpose, check. Knife? Yup. Voice ready to be heard. Got it. Revenge, coming right up.
Violet is ready. After all, she decides, everyone is born for a reason. For most of her life, she’s been different. Since she was nine years old, she’s carried a secret that made it impossible for her to be normal. For a decade, she’s been torn between loyalties and healing. But now, finally an adult, Violet can let it all out. And it isn’t going to be pretty. But then again, being ‘pretty’ and ‘special’ really aren’t what they’re cracked up to be.
When I’m Dead is the story of an eighteen-year-old abuse victim alienated by her family. Ignored by a faulty system and shuffled from placement to placement, Violet is finally old enough to be heard. Sometimes, the best messages are given without words. And Violet’s always been a person of action. Where will Violet’s plan and actions take her? Will she finally get her message across? What will they think of her, when she’s dead? Will they even notice?
When I first heard about this book, I had to spend some time thinking about whether or not I wanted to read it. The synopsis lets you know this isn’t going to be winning any awards for cheerfulness and there is no love story here. Only heartbreak. That said, I recently turned 32 and I had decided to make 32 the year of branching out. Nothing insane, but just saying yes where maybe my instinct would be to say no.
I feel like this book eviscerated me. I honestly felt like my insides turned raw and muddy from reading Violet’s story. This story is told from Violet’s perspective, starting way back when she was little. It was heartbreaking to hear this little girl, who most adults would just dismiss, be so intelligent and know full well what is going on. I know we hear about these things happening in the news, in terms of child abuse and molestation, but you always hear the glossed over, legal version of events. Seeing Violet at such a young age knowing that she shouldn’t have someone spend the night because she needs to protect them was heartbreaking.
When things finally start to change, I couldn’t tell if I felt worse for Violet or better. A recurring theme that kept going through my mind was that how can a child comprehend this and make sense of it all. I mean, it just seemed so incredibly unfair to this poor girl, who truly did nothing wrong get punished over and over and over again by the system.
I don’t want to give away this story so I don’t want to say much more. But my honest feeling is that this book should absolutely be required reading for foster parents, guidance counselors, government leaders, attorneys, judges, anyone in family law; and the list could go on and on. Hearing this experience from the child’s point of view was mind-blowing and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since I finished the book.