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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Too Hurt to Stay A Compelling Eye-Opener

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Kids only come to Casey Watson's home as a last resort.  As specialist foster carers, she and her husband house the most challenging children in England's system, the kids other foster families can't handle, those who are often one step away from being committed to secure units—the worst of the worst.  Using a time-tested behavioral modification program, the Watsons have been able to make a difference in the lives of many troubled children.  But, it's not an easy process.  Not at all.  Each experience is dramatic and unsettling in its own, unique way, so much so that Casey has written several best-selling books about the special children she feels called to help.

Too Hurt to Stay is her account of 8-year-old Spencer Herrington, a boy who turns himself in to social services.  His parents don't argue with his placement in foster care, claiming the child is a violent, uncontrollable runaway.  They call him "the spawn of Satan" and insist he was just born evil.  The Herringtons refuse to allow their child to return home until he's been "fixed."  Casey's appalled, shocked that parents would label a child evil, then effectively wash their hands of all parental responsibility toward their own flesh and blood.

Determined to help Spencer, the Watsons agree to foster the angel-faced little boy.  He's unlike any other child they've taken in before—he's polite, well-behaved, and obedient.  It's only after Spencer's settled in a bit that the Watsons start to understand why he has such a difficult reputation.  Several unsettling experiences later, Casey begins to wonder if there's something to the Herringtons' complaints about their child.  Can a person really be born bad?  Or, is Spencer simply a product of a family who appears normal on the surface, but harbors deep issues of their own?  In order to best help him, Casey vows to find out the real story of Spencer Herrington (which is not the child's real name, of course).

True accounts of children being mistreated by adults always make me cringe.  It's difficult to imagine people monstrous enough to hurt kids.  But, books by authors like Cathy Glass, Dave Pelzer, Torey Hayden and Casey Watson (a pseudonym, by the way) prove that they're all too common.  What I actually find fascinating about books like these is the psychology behind the abuse.  What makes a person lash out so cruelly at another person?  I believe we all come into the world pure and innocent, so how do some people turn into such heartless savages?  It's an interesting question, one these kinds of books always make me ponder.

As for Too Hurt to Stay, it was a fast, intriguing read.  I found Spencer an interesting and empathetic child, one whose antics surprised me.  Watson writes well enough that I felt engaged by his/her story—I definitely wanted to know how it ended.  Speaking of the finale, it felt rushed and not all that satisfying.  Realistic, but not as tidily wrapped up as I wanted it to be.  The explanations behind Spencer's family's behavior, the part I was most interested in, were summarized too quickly and left me wanting "the rest of the story."  Overall, I found the book to be a compelling eye-opener, I just wanted it to be a little fuller.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other true accounts about abused children, especially those by Cathy Glass, Dave Pelzer, and Torey Hayden)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Too Hurt to Stay from the generous folks at Harper Collins via those at TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!  

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