Bruised is a game changer when it comes to young adult fiction. As I am a BIPOC and former rugby player who often struggled with my own gender identity, this book quickly earned a spot on my “books I wish I’d had when I was younger” shelf. Tanya Boteju continues to write novels that demonstrate how attuned she is to the young adults of today. She sees them, hears them, loves them, and respects them. In Bruised, Boteju explores topics that others often shy away from, including self-harm, parental loss, grief, gender nonconformity, and sexuality.
Protagonist Daya Wijesinghe deals with pain by hurting herself until she finds power and healing in the world of roller derby. With Boteju’s seamless use of they/them pronouns, she gently encourages readers to work through their discomfort. While unfamiliar pronouns may cause some of us to stumble, Boteju’s writing is so compassionate and driven by current and relatable characters that we can’t help but keep reading through to the end.
Not only does Boteju weave in gender inclusive pronouns with skill, but also she gives voice to women who have never felt “womanly” or “feminine.” Fierce women who choose sports such as rugby, skateboarding, roller derby, or boxing over sports that are apparently meant “for girls” (read: ballet, synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, etc.). Evolved as we are, books that force us to rethink what society deems “normal” are still sorely lacking; luckily, Boteju is clearly intent on changing that, one book at a time.
As with Kings, Queens and In-Betweens, I really enjoyed reading Bruised. Tanya, thank you once again for sharing your talent with the world. I’ll be counting down the days until the publication of your next book, and have no doubt that it will not disappoint.