Stronger Than You Know

STRONGER THAN YOU KNOW is on two School Library Journal’s “Bibliotherapy for Teens” articles. You can find the first HERE, and the second HERE.

Joy’s journey for a new normal…

After police intervention, fifteen-year-old Joy has finally escaped the trailer where she once lived with her mother and survived years of confinement and abuse. Now living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in a comfortable house, she’s sure she’ll never belong. Wracked by panic attacks, afraid to talk to anyone at her new school, Joy’s got a whole list of reasons why she’s crazy. With immense courage, Joy finds friends and grows closer to her new family. But just when hope is taking hold, she learns she must testify in her mother’s trial. Can she face her old life without losing her way in the new one? Will she ever truly belong in a world that seems too normal to be real?

“The teen’s phobias and difficulties are depicted with honesty and sympathy, and readers will struggle along with her as she begins to interact with her new family and her peers. While the subject matter is tough, this realistic title will draw teens in with its believable characters… A go-to work for fans of realistic fiction about teens who have survived severe abuse: physical, sexual, and emotional.” –Sarah Wilsman, Kent Free Library, Kent, OH (School Library Journal)

“Overall this was a fantastic story  of a girl who suffered awful tragedy and learned to overcome it with people who loved her. Its true and realistic and one of my favorite books of this year.” – Nemo Rosa (Blame It On The Books)

“From the first page—a children’s services’ succinct and dispassionate report on Joy’s situation—readers will be drawn into the first-person story. Told simply and vividly with effective use of flashbacks, this tale of a teen overcoming appalling abuse and neglect will resonate with readers. Although Perry never fully addresses the causes of Joy’s suffering at the hands of her mother, her believable characters and insightful narrative raise this short, moving tale above the ranks of the typical problem novel. This fine, positive story about a strong young woman will be a valuable addition to any library collection serving teens.” — Jamie Hansen (VOYA)

stronger page

This is not a story in which the trauma survivor is Healed By Love. The romance is secondary to Joy learning to trust another person, and also a way of showing that despite her past experience, sexual contact can be a consensual, happy thing. (If anyone is unbelievably perfect in this book, it’s her love interest, but he’s so sweet that I let it go.)” – Leila Roy for KIRKUS

“Offers a portrait, rare in YA, of the way compassionate, functional families work and the good effects they can produce.” – The Bulletin of The Center for Children’s Books 

“This brilliantly elucidated Joy’s terrible past not by describing it in sordid detail, but in evidencing it in her inability to cope at her aunt’s. Her insistence that the cigarette burns, which everyone thinks are so horrible, were the least horrible part of living with her mother is chilling. Worldly readers will be able to guess at exactly went on, and more naive readers will just know how traumatized Joy is without becoming so themselves. Brilliant.” – Ms. Yingling Reads

“…a leading contender right now for my Book Of The Year award. Powerful, thought provoking, unforgettable, I cannot come up with enough good things to say about this book. Joy has become one of my all time favorite book characters.”  -Michael Burhans



There’s a bench at my childrens’ elementary school with the name of a child who was killed in a fire. I got acquainted with the case because of my husband, and the more I learned about this child’s life at home, the more broken my heart felt.

I won’t go into detail becuase there are days when I wish I could un-know what I know. I will say that the tragedy and injustice of the whole situation brought me to tears almost daily. I woke up one Saturday morning with the same line running in my head over and over again. “I read somewhere that happiness is fleeting, but joy sticks with you, holds on to you, and fills you up. The fact that my name is Joy is sort of a lesson in irony.”

Once I realized that this line wasn’t going to leave me alone until I wrote it down, I started writing. I wrote all day, all weeked. I had half the book done by Monday night. I had the rest of the book done the following weekend. I turned the tragic story of a young boy, into a girl who lived in the same kind of house. She doesn’t die in a fire at the age of five, but lives in that house until she’s fifteen–nearly completely shut off from the rest of the world.

This is a survival story, but more than that, this is a book about what happens after the great rescue, and how being removed from an awful situation is sometimes only half the battle.


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