Anke is like furniture at home. She’s always there, but almost always ignored. Her father abuses her older siblings, but he doesn’t even notice Anke. She’s invisible, and her mother and brother and sister just stand by and let the violence and other kinds of abuse take over their lives. Anke knows she doesn’t want to be abused, but she also doesn’t want to be invisible, and in a twisted way, she feels like her father doesn’t love her as much as her brother and sister. It wasn’t always like this; Anke has happy memories of her family, too, from long ago.
When Anke starts high school, she also joins the volleyball team and learns to come out of her shell. She learns to talk to people , to shout, and to take control of her life on and off the court. Finally, she doesn’t know if she can maintain her silence anymore–but she’s afraid. Confronting the situation in any way could tear her family apart, but what can she do?
Because I Am Furniture is a gritty, lyrical, and thought-provoking verse novel about one girl’s struggle with abuse–or, rather, with not being abused. This is a quiet but intense book on a difficult subject, and though the issue is the focus of this book, it felt real enough not to be a complete issue book. It felt like a story about Anke as much as a story about her abusive father, and it wasn’t the in-your-face issue book I was afraid of.
Anke is a realistic, sympathetic heroine who feels invisible, feels like it should be a blessing, but also feels unwanted; it’s complicated and sounds a little crazy, but Thalia Chaltas makes Anya’s feelings and her silence make sense. The author does very well at conveying a real feel for the personalities of all the characters, and the intense emotion of this heartbreaking (but ultimately hopeful) story, in a few well-chosen words.
This is a powerful, observant, and harshly honest debut. It’s shocking in some ways, but it doesn’t feel like it was written at all for its shock value; it’s about truth and honesty (and I get the feeling it might have been based on the author’s own experience–the dedication is to her mother, sister, and brother, and says “I write/now/what I could not do/then.” But I could be wrong about this) and figuring out what to do in a very difficult situation.
After such a dark and painfully real book, the ending was a little too neat and happy for my taste. Although something too far on the other end of the spectrum would have been unnecessarily depressing and melodramatic; I would have preferred something that was more of a balance between a happy-ever-after and an ending in which everyone dies (I hate those).
Overall, my issues with this book were minor, and it was an intense and compelling read. Thalia Chaltas’s excellent use of verse and characterization were impressive, and I look forward to her next novel.
(I would also like to note that I am blaming Thalia Chaltas for my Statistics grade; I spent the entire class period this morning reading her book from cover to cover.)
Five out of six windows: