Book Review

Bruised by Tanya Boteju

Bruised by Tanya Boteju

Genre | YA Contemporary Fiction
Page #s | 336
Publishing Date | March 2021

To Daya Wijesinghe, a bruise is a mixture of comfort and control. Since her parents died in an accident she survived, bruises have become a way to keep her pain on the surface of her skin so she doesn’t need to deal with the ache deep in her heart.

So when chance and circumstances bring her to a roller derby bout, Daya is hooked. Yes, the rules are confusing and the sport seems to require the kind of teamwork and human interaction Daya generally avoids. But the opportunities to bruise are countless, and Daya realizes that if she’s going to keep her emotional pain at bay, she’ll need all the opportunities she can get.

The deeper Daya immerses herself into the world of roller derby, though, the more she realizes it’s not the simple physical pain-fest she was hoping for. Her rough-and-tumble teammates and their fans push her limits in ways she never imagined, bringing Daya to big truths about love, loss, strength, and healing.

Goodreads

A story of loss, trauma, and identity that centers on roller derby and found family (both queer and otherwise), Bruised was a sure-fire win in my books. I loved Daya’s fierce exterior, her self-awareness that she protects herself by keeping other out, and her slow acceptance that perhaps it is worth risking potential hurt for the sake of connection and joy.

The foundation of Daya’s story is made of some pretty heavy content (death, self-harm), but the book captures the seriousness of her situation without reveling in the trauma-porn aspect. I was also very impressed by Boteju’s skill at depicting self-harm (intentional bruising, in Daya’s case) with realism and understanding, but without ever glorifying the practice.

This isn’t a book about trauma, though; it’s about learning to live again after experiencing trauma. Daya’s friend introduces her to roller derby, and although she is initially attracted to its violent aspects, she quickly learns that she has to be strong not just for herself, but for her team. Add in a love interest who is a sweet soft nerd, and Daya doesn’t stand a chance. Despite her fear, she starts to open herself up to vulnerability and connection.

My favorite thing about the book is undoubtedly the found families that welcome Daya in the wake of her loss. Her roller derby family expands to include a beautifully intergenerational queer family, and her initial resistance to her aunt and uncle (who have taken her in) warms in the face of their overwhelming love, joy, and acceptance. I have never read a coming out scene that is more hilarious and lovely than this book.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

Bruised will especially appeal to those who already love roller derby, but if you’re like me and know very little about the sport, it’s still an excellent book about accepting the start a new phase of life after a previous phase ends abruptly.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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