As the youngest female to earn a black belt at the dojang, Imogen was sure she could handle any attack. But the gunman at the diner proved her wrong, undid her whole life’s work as a defender of the helpless. How can she get past the blood-drenched scene when her mind has built a wall around the robbery gone wrong?

Tae Kwon Do is what she does, what she is, but she just froze at the diner, didn’t stop the robber before he pistol-whipped the cashier. She can remember hiding under a table, can remember the teen guy crouching under the next table, his new white shoes that became gory red and were taken as evidence, just like her bloodstained jeans. Gretchen called 911 from the bathroom, was smart enough to stay put – but Imogen should have been able to stop the situation before the guy was shot when he wouldn’t surrender.

She just can’t process what went wrong there. Can’t talk to former best friend Shelley who decided to hook up with her big brother at Imogen’s own birthday party, can’t pay attention in school, except during counseling sessions with Ricky, the guy from the diner whose shoes became bloody evidence. Her heart seems to be a lump in her chest now.

Being teased leads to a fight at school, to being asked by Grandmaster Huan not to return to the dojang until she can regain her emotional balance by truly living the ‘child rules’ at the foundation of Tae Kwon Do – respecting her parents (including her dad who let his diabetes put him in a wheelchair) and doing all her homework without being asked.

Who is Imogen without her time revolving around learning and teaching at the dojang?

How can Ricky like her or respect her when she failed to stop a death?

Why can’t she remember what happened between crouching under the table and being blood-soaked in the police car?

A compelling story of expectations versus reality, Imogen’s heart and psyche are so Bruised that moving on with life will take more courage than any Tae Kwon Do belt test she ever tried.

Recommended by: Katy Manck, Librarian-at-Large (retired academic/corporate/school librarian), Gilmer, Texas, USA – blogging young adult books beyond the bestsellers at

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