At seventeen, Mathéo Walsh appears to have it all. He is a champion diver and a hot prospect for the upcoming Olympics. He is a heartthrob, a straight A student and lives in one of the wealthiest areas of London. He has great friends and is the envy of many around him. And most importantly of all, he is deeply in love with his girlfriend, Lola. He has always been a stable, well-adjusted guy . . .
Until one weekend. A weekend he cannot seem to remember. All he knows is that he has come back a changed person. One who no longer knows how to have fun, no longer wants to spend time with his friends, no longer enjoys diving. Something terrible happened that weekend – something violent and bloody and twisted. He no longer knows who he is. He no longer trusts himself around people: he only wants to hurt, wound and destroy. Slowly, he begins to piece back the buried, fragmented memories, and finds himself staring at the reflection of a monster.
Tormented, Mathéo suddenly finds himself faced with the most devastating choice of his life. Keep his secret, and put those closest to him in terrible danger. Or confess, and lose Lola forever . . .
Having read Tabitha’s previous book, Forbidden, I thought that I knew what I was letting myself in for when I picked up Hurt – a beautifully written, compelling and emotive, character driven story, with a thread of taboo- and I was absolutely right.
Like Matheo awaking from the oblivion of sleep and finding himself at the epicenter of violence and destruction, I was immediately thrown in to a disorientating and disturbing scene with no explanation.
The flashbacks to the lightness, playfulness and beauty of pre-amnesia Matheo’s contrast so potently with the angry and bewildered young man struggling to fit in to his own life, that I felt overwhelmed by a sense of wrongness and sadness.
Matheo’s hurt was so clearly palpable, I just wanted to wrap him up in a huge hug and protect him from the world. At one point I had to stop reading as I was unable to see the text through my tears. I even had to take a few days break from the book mid way through, to read something else, because I couldn’t face the emotions that would be unleashed with the return of Matheo’s memory.
In Forbidden the use of first person, dual narrative was very important to my acceptance of the story. Therefore I found myself paying particular notice of the perspective Suzuma employed in Hurt.
For me Hurt, a third person narrative, entirely from Matheo’s perspective, was a doubled edged sword. On the one hand, this book devastated me enough with the description of how Matheo was feeling and what he was thinking, that I know a first person narrative would have been harder to experience, perhaps too hard. On the other, although I loved the secondary characters and felt sad for how Matheo’s experience affected them, I only did so because of Matheo’s love and concern for them in their roles of friend, girlfriend and brother and not because I had gotten to know them in their own right, which a more omnipotent third person perspective would have allowed.
Suzuma has this amazing talent for creating breathtakingly beautiful love in impossible and taboo situations that live with you long after you turn the last page. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be automatically pre-ordering whatever she decides to write next.
Verdict: The title is a warning- Don’t expect to finish a Tabitha Suzuma book the same person you were when you started it.
Reviewed by Caroline