Whitcher is also the author of YA fantasy Enchanter's Glass, which I recall as interesting but flawed.

The Fool Reversed is... wait for it... and interesting but flawed YA novel distinguished by the precise delineation of emotional states and by the WTF turn it takes halfway through.

The first half of the book is a painfully realistic story about a naïve teenager’s abusive affair with a horrifically plausible total jerk of an adult poet. Aspiring poet Anna’s romantic view of their relationship makes it even more clear how Thorn (who I bet renamed himself from the original Bob or Tim) is both taking advantage of it and caught up in his own fantasy. Meanwhile, she’s involved in a theoretically healthy and appropriate relationship with Dylan, a boy her own age; I had issues with this that were different from the ones Whitcher had.

It’s all quite beautifully written and plausible, Reading this as an adult is like watching an impending train wreck. A young teenager might be swept away along with Anna; I’m not sure.

Thorn’s emotional and (albeit consensual) sexual abuse of Anna is sufficient to make the point that he’s bad for her. Going further than that was not necessary, and tipped the novel into territory bordering on OMGWTFPOLARBEAR! Or at least OMGWTFPOLARBEARCUB.

1. Thorn takes Anna to a lurid masked ball whose purpose seems to be not entirely consensual hard-core S&M; there’s an orgy, a man punches out a woman, and someone tries to rape her. She is saved by Dylan, who not only punches out her attempted rapist, but also the man who punched the woman. I was inappropriately reminded of the song that goes, “I want a BRAVE man, I want a CAVE man.”

2. Thorn orders Anna to have sex with his editor (!) because the editor is powerful in the small press world (!) She goes along with it.

3. Thorn has sex with Anna’s best friend in order to try to coerce Anna into a threesome.

4. Some random teenagers try to rape Anna. Dylan rescues her, but in the ensuing shoot-out, he loses an eye.

The eye loss was the capper, but I had trouble taking any of this seriously after the S&M masked ball.

With all the sexual abuse and attempted rape by various parties throughout the book, I was creeped out that what seems to be strongly indicated as a positive ending, which is Anna beginning a relationship with Dylan. He’s supposed to be a good guy and what Whitcher suggests as his flaw is that he lied to Anna about his feelings about her and his background. (He pretended to have a girlfriend because he was in love with her, and she was in love with Thorn; his mom was an alcoholic bum, etc.) But given the pervasive background of sexual violence and the total lack of anyone in the book seeing this as a social as well as a personal problem, concluding with the ever-passive Anna taking refuge with a man who protects her from violent men with violence does not strike me as much of a positive change.
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