Book Review: Bend Me Shape Me
Monday, April 28, 2014 at 10:11AM
Windy City Reviews

Bend Me Shape Me. Debra Borys. New Libri, Mercer Island, WA, July 2013. E-book and Trade Paperback. 219 pages.

Reviewed by Starza Thompson.

Bend Me Shape Me takes a deep and fascinating look into the world of teen homelessness in Chicago. Through the eyes of Snow Ramirez, Jo Sullivan, and Leonard Goldenhawk, author Debra Borys shepherds the audience on a terrifying journey of homelessness, mental illness, family problems, and murder. 

Snow was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, but after a couple strange visits with the psychiatrist, Levinson, Snow convinced herself that she was better off far away from psychiatrists. After her squat mate killed himself, Snow began to realize that she was not the only one to have strange visits with Levinson—in Snow's eyes, there was something much more sinister going on in Levinson’s sessions. Unfortunately, it was very hard for people at the shelter and other doctors to believe her when she mentioned that something was wrong with Levinson, especially given her mental state. On the war path to remove her little brother from Levinson’s care, Snow met Jo, a reporter for a newspaper that covered stories about teen homelessness. Snow did not trust anyone, but Jo was the only person who cared enough to dig deeper into the problem. All the while, Leonard Goldenhawk was following Snow to try to connect her with her past and give her some hope for the future. 

This novel was chock full of nail-biting scenes and page-turning tension, making it very hard to put down. Throughout the book, Borys does an excellent job of painting a realistic picture of homeless youth and the struggle they have with mental illness, family, trust, and more. From the very first page of this novel, the audience is pulled into Snow’s story and her struggle to keep her brother and herself safe.

Bend Me Shape Me is the second book of Debra Borys’s Street Stories series. Borys has spent 12 years volunteering at various charities and programs that help the homeless, both in Chicago and in Seattle. Her experience was very evident throughout the novel—there was no question of the reality of Snow’s situation and the struggle she was facing with trust, her mental state, and her past. It’s easy to write what you think you know about homelessness, and how teens would react in certain situations, but it takes an expert—like Borys—to really discover the essence of what life is like for troubled teens on the streets.

For me, this book was both entertaining and eye-opening. The plot twists and multiple narrators kept me flipping the page to find out what happened next, while the reality of Snow’s situation made me want to learn more about how I could make a difference in the lives of homeless youth. As someone who loves psychological thrillers and who is a Big Sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters, this book combined my interests in ways I didn’t think possible. I immediately wanted to know more about Snow and her brother and could have easily read a book twice as long on this topic. 

One weakness I saw in this novel was the shallow character development of Jo Sullivan and Leonard Goldenhawk, two of the three point-of-view characters. Both characters moved the plot along nicely, but I would have liked to know more about them. I realized at the end of the novel that Jo was a reoccurring character in the Street Stories series, so what was lacking in character development here may have been something more heavily discussed in the first novel that I, unfortunately, did not read. With a story as heart wrenching and important as this, I would have liked to learn more about Leonard's and Jo’s past to give the novel even more depth.

Bend Me Shape Me is a chilling and tension-drenched thriller that will enable you to take a long hard look at the plight of the homeless. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes thrillers that make you think—once you pick up this book, you will struggle to put it down!


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