Kate Dunbar’s new adult novel, Used, is a strong suspenseful survivor story and romance rolled into one. Told in first person narration, the plot unfolds in twenty-six chapters alongside traumatic flashbacks that drew me into the mind and heart of the protagonist on the first page.
Dunbar covers all the elements of a good suspense. I quickly became vested in the main characters, Sabra and her love interest Trevor, and was hard hit to despise the wrongdoers. The short timeline of approximately a month took me to Southern California, and filled me with sights and sounds of mountains, lakes, the seashore, night skies, working student life, and the City of Los Angeles. The alternating paces between the romance and the lurking danger created great balance between the horrors of trauma and the courage to recover.
While a few scenes made me cry, there were others that lifted me up with hope and joy for the future of the characters, who virtually could be any survivor and their loved ones impacted by domestic abuse. I sensed a Victorian symbol throughout the story which is a nice piece in the puzzle. Not sure if this was intended or an accident, but it worked wonderfully. To top the read off, Dunbar threw in a red herring that had me slightly doubting the obvious until Chapter 22. Throughout, I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
The dialogue between Sabra and Trevor is intimate and credible. Trevor’s supportive words throughout the story could be a script that all supportive people of survivors could find useful. He listens mostly, but when he does speak, it is not with pity, it is with focus on rebuilding a future. At one point Trevor says, “Everyone has a past. All of Us. Some are filled with laughter and joy and others are filled with dark frightening things. No one move’s forward without something behind them.” So on point is this.
I am compelled to mention Dunbar’s Foreword, which gives the book added substance. The contact information for domestic abuse organizations is listed there. And as for the ending of this highly recommended read, it is climactic and satisfying. ☮