Author: Mia Siegert
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Release: April 7, 2020
Review: 5 Stars
A novel of trauma, identity, and survival.
After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for a fresh start―so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these "sinners," Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.
But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest's identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.
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TW: sexual assault, homophobia, transphobia
Fun fact: I was planning to start this book a day earlier than I did, but then a coup happened and I got a little distracted. Anyways, this book has been on my TBR for a while, and I finally got a copy for my birthday a couple weeks ago. It's been sitting there staring at me until I was in the right mood to pick it up. Going in I knew it would be a tough story. It deals with sexual assault (both past for the main character and ongoing for others) and unaccepting Catholic relatives. The main character Aleks/Alexis goes to live with their Catholic aunt and uncle (the uncle is a priest) after being sexually assaulted. Given how unaccepting the aunt and uncle are, they go semi-back into the closet, presenting only as female. This obviously takes a toll on their mental health, but luckily Aleks/Alexis meet some pretty cool people while there.
First, there's Sister Bernadette. She's a nun at the church, and Aleks'Alexis pretty quickly develop a crush on her. I really loved Bernie, and appreciated how she provided contrast to some of the more negative characters associated with the church. There's also Dima, who's thinking about studying to be a priest but has some hidden secrets. And there's Deacon Jameson, who is an absolute cinnamon roll hidden under a tough exterior. I loved this cast of characters and the friendship they developed.
Somebody Told Me does a good job of mixing the dark with the light. There is some truly tough content. Aleks/Alexis has flashbacks to painful memories of former friends and their sexual assault. They overhear confessions through the vent in their room. Sometimes minor, sometimes hard (but in a way they can help), and sometimes horrible. Aleks/Alexis also deals with what reads like intrusive thoughts. As someone who experiences them to a lesser degree, I thought they were a strong addition to the story to show how Aleks/Alexis is dealing with anxiety and trauma. Despite the hardships they face, the story also shows Aleks/Alexis helping people in need that they overhear confessing, such as a woman in desperate need of a job to care for her family and a man with a financially abusive girlfriend. There are also moments of true levity, when the characters are joking around and when Aleks/Alexis connects with their aunt. I think the book does a good job of presenting a hard subject in such a way that it's digestible to readers who might have trouble with the topic.
Last, but not least, I really appreciated the ending. I won't spoil anything, but let's just say that bad people got what they deserved. I wouldn't have minded another chapter or two to show the beginning of the healing process (emotional and physical) of the characters, but I think it still ended strongly.
Siegert's debut JERKBAIT made Goodreads Best YA of May 2016, Top 12 Indie YA from Barnes & Noble Teen Blog, Top 10 YA of 2016 from AndPop!, and gained attention from SB Nation, Publishers Weekly, Barnes & Noble Teen Blog, AndPOP!, MaximumPOP! UK, VOYA Magazine, Paste Magazine, Teen Librarian Toolbox, among many others.
When not writing, Siegert is a self-taught costume designer with their husband and two cats. Their work has appeared on Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and the CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."
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