Tanya Boteju

Book - 2021

Daya Wijesinghe sees a bruise as a mixture of comfort and control, but joining a roller derby team push her toward big truths about love, loss, strength, and healing.

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Young adult fiction
New York : Simon Pulse 2021.
Main Author
Tanya Boteju (author)
First Simon Pulse hardcover edition
Physical Description
328 pages ; 22 cm
Ages 14 up.
Grades 10-12.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

After surviving an accident that her parents did not, Daya starts developing some self-destructive habits and doesn't allow anyone to help her cope or grow. Mostly, she's fixated on collecting as many bruises as possible (descriptions of her self-harm are often detailed), so the physical pain can distract her from her emotional agony. When a pal introduces her to the world of roller derby, she seizes the opportunity to dole out as well as receive pain, without knowing the full extent of what she is getting into. Boteju immerses the reader into Daya's head and, in a slow burn, reveals her steady changes. It's clear how different people and circumstances, such as playing a team sport for the first time, begin crack Daya's armor and, little by little, she's able to work on herself--maybe even fall in love? It's all worth it by the end, and readers will be rewarded with Daya's true growth and introspection. This book is a given for any older teen who loved the movie Whip It.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Eighteen-year-old Daya Wijesinghe is tough, just like her boxer father taught her to be. When her parents, both Sri Lankan immigrants, die in a car crash that she survives, that toughness becomes a shield as she bruises herself to cope with her grief. A year and a half after the accident, she learns about roller derby--seemingly the perfect way to get some new bruises. But skating with the Killa Honeys is appealing in ways she never expected, and Daya begins to learn that there's strength and healing to be found in softness--if only she can overcome her fear of opening up. Boteju (Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens) sensitively handles Daya's post-accident trauma, struggles with intimacy, and growing understanding of her own sexuality. Characterization is sometimes inconsistent (one character chastises Daya for being needlessly confrontational in one scene, then goads her into being so in another), but an infectious enthusiasm for roller derby and Daya's persuasive journey to self-knowledge and acceptance--aided by a spirited, intersectionally inclusive cast--provide fun and emotional resonance in equal measure. Includes an overview of the sport. Ages 14--up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret. (Mar.)■

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up--Daya Wijesinghe's parents died suddenly in a car crash and she manages her grief and emotions by causing herself physical pain. She discovers skateboarding and relishes the bumps and bruises that come from falling, which is a pain she can control. One day her friend from the skatepark, Fee, introduces her to roller derby. She also meets Shanti, the manager of the roller derby team, The Killa Honeys, who makes Daya want to open up and feel the feelings she has long repressed. Roller derby seems like the best opportunity to fulfill her need for pain and bruising so she tries out for the team, but finds that being part of a team makes it more difficult to hide her emotions. When Daya officially makes the team and participates in their "shenanigans," she quickly realizes roller derby isn't only about getting the most bruises or being the strongest person but being a part of something outside herself and her pain. Daya is Sri Lankan, and most major characters are people of color. Fee is gender nonconforming and their girlfriend is deaf and uses ASL. At first, Daya is unsure about her own sexuality, but soon realizes she truly cares for Shanti and that her sexuality doesn't have to be rigidly defined. The book also contains information about the history of roller derby. VERDICT An emotional story about coming to terms with grief and guilt and allowing yourself to open up to others to heal. An uplifting and engaging title for all YA collections.--Kristyn Dorfman, The Nightingale-Bamford Sch., New York City

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Eighteen-year-old Daya tries to navigate life after the sudden deaths of her parents in a car accident. Daya Wijesinghe is familiar with pain and finds comfort in it. Pain is how she copes with her feelings, and the bruises she gets from skateboarding are her way of keeping the hurt on the surface. Upon being introduced to roller derby by her friend Fee, Daya is fascinated by the sport that to her seems driven by brute strength--until she ventures in further. While roller derby gives Daya the external bruises she wants, she discovers a place of deep reckoning and healing through this sport as well. Boteju writes with acumen about the roller-coaster ride of being a teenager. Daya is both a highly frustrating and deeply engaging character, with a strong character arc. Readers get to see her many shades, both in terms of her personality (hard shell plus vulnerability) and her bruises (physical, including from self-harm, and psychological). Daya is of Sri Lankan descent and queer. Some secondary characters are gender-nonconforming and queer; Fee uses they/them pronouns, and their girlfriend is deaf and uses ASL. The backmatter includes a fascinating brief history of roller derby, focusing on the strong and inclusive community that has grown up around it. A searing portrait of self-discovery; soulful and captivating. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Chapter One Chapter One Endless stippling spread across my bedroom ceiling, tiny bumps of white pushing back at me like thousands of stubby, pointing fingers. Fuck you, stubby bumps. Lying faceup on my bed, I glared hard at the ceiling for a few moments before extending my left arm above me and bringing my hand down--hard--against my headboard. The ritual, started a year and a half ago, sent a familiar sting through my palm, a kind of shield against the day ahead. I'd feel the bruising every time I held a mug or grabbed my backpack strap, whenever I pushed open a door, clutched an apple. The pain was something to focus on--like a messed-up stress ball to squeeze whenever I needed it. I wasn't proud of this thing I'd come to depend on--far from it--but the need to do it was so overwhelming sometimes that knowing I'd feel shitty about it afterward wasn't enough to stop me from doing it. It was protection against other people discovering all the rot in my gut. It was punishment. It was proof I could handle everything on my own. I forced myself out from the covers and placed my feet on the carpet. Fall air slipped through my open window, crisp and biting. For a moment, I let the chill lift my skin into goose bumps and stared at my bare thighs spreading across the edge of the mattress. Two quarter-size bruises decorated the middle of my left thigh, and a larger one curved around the outside of my right. I lifted my feet into the air and admired a shin bruise from a week ago. The bruise was barely visible now, its darkness lightening and almost hidden against my brown skin. But I knew it was still there from the painful tenderness when I pressed my fingers into it, which I did now, closing my eyes to let the pain sink in. "Daya Doo Wop! It's almost eight and you can't be late again! It's still September and you've been in detention once already... remember?" Jesus. My uncle's singsongy voice surged through both my bedroom door and my quiet moment, each sentence rising into a high note. He knew better than to come in, but he still thought these cheerful reminders would help get me going faster. "I'm up!" I called back, swallowing back the other words constantly threatening to escape from my mouth: Leave. Me. Alone. Handling my uncle and aunt demanded a balancing act: Keep our interactions light and consistent so they didn't worry about me, but discourage excessive interaction in case they mistook it for intimacy. Keep my head above water at school, but not so far above that they got excited about my prospects. Date boys like a "normal teenage girl," but not for too long and not the type my aunt and uncle would approve of. Go to counseling, but only to make them feel better. Get involved, but not too involved. I listened as Uncle Priam's footsteps receded down the hallway, practically skipping across the hardwood. He and Aunt Vicki were now my official guardians. The paperwork had been finalized recently, after a painful, slow process following my parents' deaths. Priam was my dad's brother, but I'm sure when my parents named him and my aunt my godparents, Priam and Vicki never thought they'd actually have to take me into their home and look after me. That's just what they've been doing these past many months, though. And they must have learned their version of parenting in theater school, where they met, because I felt like I was in an epic musical most of the time. P.S. I hate musicals. If my uncle and aunt weren't singing duets at the dinner table, they were playing dress-up. They were forever trying to get me to watch all these old-timey musicals on TV with them, and a while ago they'd tried to give me singing lessons for my birthday. I pretended to go for six weeks, but in reality I was at the skateboard park. It was clear we didn't get each other. So my balancing act was as much for them as it was for me--aim for coexistence and not much more. Don't waste their time or mine. I stood up and stretched, my body aching from an extra-long skateboarding session the day before. Skateboarding kept me muscular, and having more muscle meant experiencing more soreness, which was perfect for me. I lived for that ache. And I liked seeing my body stay thick and strong too. My muscles made me feel like I could defend myself--but also invite pain when I needed to. I pulled on my jeans and hoodie, both protecting and preparing myself for the day ahead. Excerpted from Bruised by Tanya Boteju All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.