GUEST WRITER JULIA COPELAND RECOMMENDS FORGIVE ME NOT BY JENNIFER BAKER
Forgive Me Not by Jennifer Baker is a moving and emotionally charged young adult novel that explores the complexities of forgiveness. The story centers on the protagonist, Violetta Chen-Samuels, a fifteen-year-old girl who makes one bad decision that causes life-altering repercussions.
The story opens with a devastating accident that upends Violetta’s entire existence when she chooses to drive drunk, taking the life of her young sister. Violetta not only faces incarceration, but she also must confront the challenge of seeking forgiveness from the people she has harmed – her family. However, Violetta not only seeks the forgiveness of her family; she is also in pursuit of self-forgiveness.
In Jennifer Baker’s compelling portrayal of the justice system, a complex dynamic emerges where the family of the victim holds the power to determine the punishment for the youth offender. Violetta, at the crossroads of her fate, confronts three possibilities: a return home to her family if forgiveness is immediately granted, a prolonged sentence upstate, or a difficult path through the Trials – a series of daunting tasks designed for youth rehabilitation. While the Trials were invented to improve the youth justice system, it is evident that the system remains broken and flawed, possessing the same biases as before: racism, sexism, and classicism.
What truly distinguishes the story is the dual perspective that it offers, allowing readers to intimately experience both Violetta’s journey within the justice system and the profound impact her situation has on her family through the lens of her older brother, Vince. While the reader witnesses Violetta’s inner turmoil and her struggle within the justice system, they also are exposed to the heart-wrenching transformation of the family as they navigate grief and forgiveness.
Jennifer Baker empathetically addresses a multitude of heavy topics, including death, grief, drug abuse, suicide, and the inherent racism present within the justice system. This book is great for high school students who wish to engage with literature that sparks discussions about the justice system, the heavy struggles that teenagers may face, and societal issues at large.
Julia Copeland is from a small town in Ontario. She is currently a Bachelor of Education student at the University of New Brunswick in hopes of becoming a French and English high school teacher!