The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess | A glimpse into the life of foster care kids

Warning: This book contains mentions of sexual abuse, child abuse, mental illness, violence, suicide attempt.

Have you ever thought about what it is like to be a kid in the foster care system?

«The Quiet You Carry» inspired by Nikki Barthelmess own experience in the foster care, gives us a glimpse into the life of foster care kids.

Victoria Parker is a senior and only a few months away from turning 18. And just one moment changes her life forever. When her father locks her out of the house, Victoria is placed in the foster care system and ends up in a different town, different school and different home.

Victoria Parker knew her dad’s behavior toward her was a little unusual, but she convinced herself everything was fine—until she found herself locked out of the house at 3:00 a.m., surrounded by flashing police lights. Now, dumped into a crowded, chaotic foster home, Victoria has to tiptoe around her domineering foster mother, get through senior year at a new school, and somehow salvage her college dreams . . . all while keeping her past hidden.

But some secrets won’t stay buried—especially when unwanted memories make Victoria freeze up at random moments and nightmares disrupt her sleep. Even worse, she can’t stop worrying about her stepsister Sarah, left behind with her father. All she wants is to move forward, but how do you focus on the future when the past won’t leave you alone?


Disclaimer: *Thank you NetGalley and Flux for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.*

Nikki Barthlmess new book is receiving a lot of positive feedback. I took a sneak pick at GoodReads’ reviews and most of them (90%) are 5-4-star ratings and people saying how much they cared for Victoria, how difficult it was to see her struggle, how they cried reading about what she went through.

And I felt like a cold affectless potato.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a quick and immersive read. One of those books that captures your attention and can be read in one sitting. The plot was fairly interesting. But that was it.

I didn’t feel connected to any characters, most of them felt one-dimensional, whose sole purpose was to provide some support to the plot development and the main character. I broke down my review in a few topics that I felt worth mentioning:

As someone who never went through the “system”, I cannot judge on how accurate it was portrayed. I just need to trust Nikki Barthelmess representation on this one, as that part of the book was inspired by her own experience.

In a reply to one of GoodReads questions, Nikki said:

I grew up in the Nevada foster care system, living in six different towns in the six years I was in care. I didn’t know what foster care was, not really, until I entered the system, and it felt like no one else could possibly understand what I was going through. Even worse, many people judged me, like it was my fault I was in foster care. Like I was a “bad kid.” I felt so unwanted and, sometimes, even hopeless.

This is also what we see from the foster kids that stay at Connie’s house. They have gone through so much early in their lives. They deserve something better than a house with strict rules and people who don’t care.

Mindy, Victoria’s social worker, was probably the only character that sparked some emotions in me. And it was definitely negative. I hated to see the way she treated Victoria “as just another case”.

Unfortunately, that is what happens to most people who have to deal with others’ problems. In the beginning, you worry and care as if they were your own, but after a while, the patterns repeats itself over and over again. The situations are so similar. The only thing that changes are the names of the involved parties. And then we start treating it as a job.

Victoria comes from a household with many issues that began a long time ago. Her mother’s death wasn’t the trigger. I dare even say that the foundation for this unhealthy relationship was laid down by her mother.

This journey that the author took us on, the memories that Victoria had from before her mother’s death, and how it all slowly progressed, was interesting, but also chilling to read about.

I would have preferred if the story focused more on that part of the plot, instead of constantly deviating to the high-school theme.

It was nice to see Victoria as a good student and someone who cared about her future. But her relationships in high school didn’t add anything to the story. From day one, she became friends with Cristina, who basically forced this relationship by being constantly there. The same thing happened with Kale. Taylor and Lauren took on the spots of the “means girls” of the school, Alex and Zach were the “jocks”. All these characters had no depth to them and were created only to help Victoria.

In the very beginning of the story, we don’t know yet what actually happened to her. We suspect a few things, we are given a few hints here and there, but Victoria is afraid to admit, even to herself, the events of that fateful night.

This was a good tactic to intrigue the reader, to make them turn the pages faster. But when I got to the middle of the book and the pattern was still the same, it just stopped being intriguing, and started to be annoying. At that point, I had a very good idea of what happened and just wanted Victoria to tell everyone for the book to be over.

Another important topics that Nikki Barthelmess brought to the light, were:

  1. Loneliness. Victoria and Jamie, her foster sister, both struggle with loneliness, with the feeling of being abandoned by the most important people in their lives. Jamie, who was only 12-years-old, struggles with the possibility of never having a family, never having someone who would genuinely care for her.
  2. Victims. We are not shown just one victim. There are at least four and all had the same aggressor, Victoria’s father. We see how they deal with the aggression and violence, we see their reaction to the abuse, mental and physical.  
  3. Parenting. Another important topic that I liked to see, was the idea of “children parenting their parents”, and how adults shouldn’t put the weight of their burdens on their children’s shoulders.

My rating:

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