In Loss, we meet Billy Ballard. Bill’s got a double whammy-bullying and a grandfather with Alzheimer’s. Two things I know a lot about. From the time I was eight to when I went to college, I was bullied. I related to Billy’s desire to skip school, play sick. I dreaded going to school. I enjoyed the learning part, but the taunting made my life almost unbearable. Adults told me to avoid my tormenters, ignore the problem. That never worked. Bullies knew I was an easy mark and sought me out. My parents told me to defend myself, not with fists, but with words. But words failed me when a bully taunted me. I always thought of a retort hours later. Miraculously, in college, the words found me at the right time and I was able to stand up for myself. So Billy’s story about being bullied resonated with me.
Secondly, Billy’s grandpa has Alzheimer’s. My mom had Alzheimer’s for the last 15 years of her life. It was heartbreaking for me to see her lose herself over time. Billy’s grandfather didn’t recognize Billy and sometimes would become violent just like my mom. I could understand how Billy could be angry at his grandfather who was no longer his grandfather.
The first half of the book was very upsetting for me. I purposely don’t read books with characters who have memory loss. It’s too hard for me. I almost did not finish Loss. But I remembered how difficult the other books (Hunger and Rage) were to read (although either of them touched a personal nerve) and pushed through. I’m really glad I did. Loss is such a well written book. It really puts you in Billy’s shoes and how taking the role of Pestilence gave him the strength to stand up for himself.