My black belt represents everything I could've done and everything I didn't do, the only time it really mattered.
Sarah Skilton's debut novel, Bruised, opens with a gut-punch of a first scene. Imogen, a 16-year old Tae Kwon Do black belt has just witnessed a gunman be shot and killed by police while attempting a holdup at the diner. Imogen hides under a table, paralyzed as the events unfold before her.
Thanks to her years of training to achieve her black belt, Imogen always believed that she was stronger than everyone else, a real-life superhero, that she could and would diffuse a volatile situation. In the aftermath of the violence at the diner, she's wracked by guilt, convinced that she should have saved the gunman.
Imogen's entire identity is wrapped up in her Tae Kwon Do achievements. She studied hard to achieve her mediocre grades so she could practice the sport, was in constant training, followed the discipline's rules about behavior and conduct and ate all the right things. And yet, for Imogen, those years of work were all for naught when it really mattered that day at the diner.
This belief sends Imogen's sense of who she is into a tailspin as she has to piece her identity back together as she navigates her changing family relationships, friendships and her relationship with a boy, Ricky, who understands her experience in a way that no one else can.
The sharpest element of Bruised is Imogen's voice--it's absolutely unwavering in its authenticity.
If a girl punches someone, she's crazy. If a guy punches someone, he's dealing with his feelings. He's normal.