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Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
Pub. Date: July 21, 2015
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Random House Books for Young Readers!!)
Summary: 22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, she’s able to begin again. She’s even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy’s forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Thriller
Recommended for: Readers who enjoy being completely caught off guard and surprised, readers looking for something much darker than they’re used to

Wow. WOOOOOW. It’s not everyday I’m so thoroughly swept off my feet by a story, although maybe that’s not the right phrase, since it brings to mind a swoony, romantic tale. No, Damage Done ripped the rug out from under me is a more apt expression. I knew there would be a twist and so I began guessing and guessing some more. While I was on the right track with one turn, I certainly didn’t expect that. Or that and especially not THAT.

Nine months ago Lucy Black was Julia Vann. She had a twin brother, a best friend, and was dating a boy on the football team. Then came the twenty minutes that changed her life forever: Ryan, her brother, shot and killed 11 classmates (including a teacher) in the band room with Julia as the sole survivor. Ryan’s attempted suicide right after failed, putting him into a medically-induced coma from which he never woke. As for Julia, she was immediately labeled an outcast, and the never-ending stream of reporters camped outside the family home became too much for her mother.

With a new identity and a new house across the state, Lucy begins to feel safe, begins to feel normal again. She’s making friends, starts flirting with a boy, and slowly opens up to be the person she was before her life changed. One day, after seeing someone she thinks she recognizes from her past, she starts to worry but tries to brush it off as a coincidence or a figment of her imagination. As these sightings happen more and more frequently, however, she soon comes to realize something is definitely wrong and the new life she carved for herself isn’t as safe as she thought.

Ohhh my. So I’m extremely hesitant when books are pitched as X-meets-X or The New ____. Damage Done has been hailed as “Gillian Flynn for the YA set” and, for once, I agree. I’m also somewhat reluctant to read books that I’ve received unsolicited – there are so many others I have that I want to read and piles of books I’ve actually requested, why bother devoting time to a book I’ve never even heard of? Last month I randomly grabbed Trish Doller’s The Devil You Know from my library, devoured it in record time, and have been craving another YA Thriller ever since. I’m so, so pleased to say Damage Done went above and beyond all expectations. What I thought was going to be a quick read did indeed turn out to be such, but it also took me on one wild ride and when I wasn’t reading, my time was still spent with this book, counting down the hours, the minutes until I could finally pick it up again.

The past few books I’ve read I’ve likened to made-for-tv movies – and I don’t mean that in a bad way! A Limetime movie on a lazy weekend makes my heart sing and Damage Done could easily join its ranks. The fast pace, the twists and turns, it’s all there and Ms. Panitch did such an excellent job that while reading, I was able to ‘watch’ it perfectly. The scenes played out effortlessly in my head.

There were two issues I had with this one, but they didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Dr. Spence, Ryan’s psychiatrist, has a huge chip on his shoulder. He wants to be a police psychiatrist, but the academy rejected him, so he’s stuck working with children like Ryan and trying to discover just why he dismembers puppies and burns down treehouses while little girls are still inside. After every few chapters, Damage Done pauses from the current story, to delve a bit into Dr. Spence’s notes…and they’re seriously written like a teen girl’s diary. He vents and rages and makes snide remarks about his profession and I just couldn’t take him seriously. The other issue was one of those I’ll Tell You Everything deals where a new officer (it’s her very first day on the job) explains – in detail – how to enter a supposedly high security cell. She even includes the location of the keys. I don’t care if it’s her first day or if she’s been there 30 years – you don’t explain 1) where dangerous criminals are being held and 2) provide thoroughly-detailed instructions on how to break them out. That’s just common sense.

And a note about that cover.. the cover model is so beautiful, but here, with her grey, lifeless skin, all I could think of was zombie.

When all if said and done, Damage Done surprised me. I truly hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did. It’s fun, dark, creepy, and twisty and the ultimate reveal is one I definitely hadn’t expected – but it makes SO much sense. All in all, this was a great Thriller that kept me both engaged and guessing until it’s final pages.

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