Review of Bruised by Tanya Boteju
Bruised by Tanya Boteju really packs a punch with navigating the ever-bumpy path of grief, fear, and keeping guards up.
After her parents’ death, Daya stays locked within herself, never really allowing others or herself to grow close for fear of losing them and getting hurt in the process. But she’s already hurt, already bruised, and she turns to that physical hurt and bruising as a way to prove her own toughness and keep herself distracted from the emotional hurt and bruising, and what better way to get physically hurt and bruised than joining a roller derby team. This roller derby team turns out to be exactly what she needed, in more ways than Daya originally expected. If you loved We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, then you’ll definitely love this book; however, they are their own stories.
Bruised definitely revolves around how messy and intense grief can be, how it can bring about so many different emotions, and how grief isn’t linear, but it highlights more of how grief can also manifest physically. A lot of the bruising is self-inflicted as a coping mechanism, and the roller derby helps add to that and speed it along. Even though the book follows a lot of grief and physical pain, there are scenes of therapy and healthier coping mechanisms, casual queerness and plenty of LGBTQ+ (and diverse) characters, scenes of fun and unbridled joy of life, eventual openness and clear communication, and a soft romance. These all add to the stages of grief and healing and how someone else’s pain could help teach a lesson about yourself. This is a very enjoyable and great book, with important lessons and messages attached.
Relationships also take a prominent seat throughout the book. Daya is exposed to a multitude of different relationships that definitely play a role in her character arc. The family-like relationship within the derby team gives off a found family vibe with all the girls looking out for one another, as well as moments where there’s almost a sense of sibling rivalry when they want to show off a bit. There’s also a lesbian couple (wives) who previously played roller derby themselves and offer their support and advice to Daya, and in turn, they introduce Daya to another couple who just demonstrate such joy and happiness with life that they become a real bright spot within Daya’s story.
The romance within this rough-and-tumble story does offer calm and slow moments around the chaos of roller derby. Daya struggles with letting anyone in as she fears experiencing more heartbreak, but Shanti, the roller derby team’s manager/assistant, slowly brings down Daya’s walls over the course of the story. Shanti is the calm, the softness/gentleness, and the happiness that Daya needs to help overcome her own intense emotions and actions. Also, this is my first jump into the roller derby scene, and I’ll end by saying I’m now a huge fan! Bruised should definitely be on everyone’s book radar and add it to your reading list. 4.5 Stars.