Outrun the Dark by Cecilia Bartholomew
Billyjean’s little brother was killed by a blow to the head with a wrench. Everyone said Billyjean did it, so she was put into a mental institution when she was only eight. Thirteen years later they let her go home. But she still doesn’t remember doing it.
Billiejean, a little eight year old girl is caught standing over the body of her little brother holding the wrench that killed him. She spends the next thirteen years of her life in a mental hospital. For those thirteen years she is told that she killed her little brother, Bubber, and she will have to face the reality of that and admit it before she will be well enough to go home. The only problem is she doesn’t remember doing it. And when she finally gets to go home there are people who tell her they don’t believe that she did. In truth the mystery here isn’t much of a mystery. Not to the reader anyway. You can guess what happened pretty early on. The book becomes not about what happened to Bubber but what is going to happen to Billiejean now. She is both still eight years old and a woman of twenty-one. You see the world through Billiejean’s eyes as she tries to navigate through her new world. She is confused and scared and does not know how to behave. She tries desperately to do what is expected of her so people will think she is normal and well but at the same time she does not believe it herself. You also get to see how the characters around Billiejean deal with her coming home, her father is desperate as he tries to explain himself, her mother is worried what everyone thinks but wants to do right by Billiejean, and the neighbors don’t know what is best for Billiejean or how to help. It is a story about the emotional and psychological responses of the whole neighborhood to this one event that engulfed and changed so many lives so profoundly. Even though you feel like you know what happened to Bubber, Billiejean is still not sure herself and her search and what the outcome and consequences of it will be leave you with lots of doubts. You want to know if Billiejean can pull through this whole. You want to know if anyone will be there for her at the end. I think it failed to make Bubber the mystery it had intended but it is still a tense and emotional story about Billiejean’s struggle to find her life again.