His Favorites by Kate Walbert

Folks in the book world have a few expected places from which they get book recommendations, such as the New York Times Book Review, BookPage, and other book reviewers. However, one of my favorite places for book recommendations that I’ve loved for years is Vogue magazine

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His Favorites by Kate Walbert was highlighted in the pages of Vogue in a review written by Lauren Mechling, and I immediately put it on hold at my library. The page count seemed to have escaped my memory when I finally picked up the book, and I wasn’t expecting was a 149-page novel. I finished it in two days (really savoring the language), and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Jo Hadley is 15-years-old, and she’s a murderer. Or at least, that’s how she sees it. Her friend was killed in an unfortunate drunken accident on a golf course. Jo carries the guilt with her to a new boarding school , leaving her isolated, vulnerable, and unprotected. The story is told from Jo’s memory, several years later, recounting a predatory teacher at the school who included her in a group of other students referred to as “His Favorites.”

I hesitate to give away much more of the plot, save for a trigger warning for sexual assault.

If you can recall a time a friend or a loved one disclosed a trauma, the disclosure itself didn’t take a lot of time, but it probably stayed with you for a long time. Trauma can feel like it’s one singular event that has a one-sided ripple effect into the future thereafter. But, as we all know, oftentimes trauma is preceded by others.

Could Ms. Walbert have known that this book would be so timely?

Maybe we’ll have a time in our lives when disclosure mitigated by power dynamics are saved for history books, and not contemporary fiction that feels too relevant. But for now, this book provides validation.

I highly recommend this book. If you read it, report back to me and let me know what you think:


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