Target by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson

Rating: 9/10 ★★★★★★★★★☆ 
Title: Target
Author: Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson
Genre: Young Adult
URL: Roaring Brook Press
Price: Out of print
Why had the men chosen him? Savagely violated by two strangers, sixteen-year-old Grady West retreats into silence. Some hells just can’t be shared. Searing and powerful, Target shows that people can go through unspeakable things and emerge whole— and sometimes your friends can save you.
My review:
After attending a school concert, 16-year-old Grady West decides to walk home by himself and is brutally beaten and raped by two men. I wasn’t sure I was ready for another story about teenage suffering, but after a friend’s recommendation I went to the library, dug in immediately and barely came up for air.

Grady’s story is harrowing. Before the attack, he hung out with his Group, the six friends he’d known since grade school. After the attack, he has abandoned his old friends and starts over at a new school. His memories continue to haunt him, he is barely able to speak, he has trouble eating, and he is plagued with self-doubt and confusion. Enter Jess, an outgoing African-American with dreadlocks whose relentless teasing finally elicits one-word responses and occasional half-smiles from Grady, and Pearl, a shy and slightly overweight girl who eventually succeeds in penetrating his shell.

The author very realistically explores the effects of rape on a troubled young man and sensitively portrays his confusion over his sexuality, his fear, despair, anxiety and pain. With the help of friends old and new, Grady has some hope.

I was very moved by this powerful and disturbing story.