{Review} Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

Thalia Chaltas’ Because I am Furniture exemplifies the unique power of novels in verse. There are a lot of yougn adult novels about family violence, and many of them are excellent. However, in Because I am Furniture, the verse form allows the reader to experience the house of horrors in which Anke, the main character, lives. 

Fourteen year-old Anke’s siblings are terrorized by their abusive father while her mother passively watches, seemingly accepting the violence and sexual abuse of her children. Anke, however, is simply ignored. 

I am always there.
But they don’t care if I am
because I am furniture.

I don’t get hit
I don’t get fondled
I don’t get love
because I am furniture

Suits me fine. 

Anke is a younger narrator than I usually prefer—she’s 14 and a high school freshman. I do think this was a barrier to my getting into the story initially, because she lacks some maturity, particularly in how she deals with friends at school. However, Anke joins the volleyball team and it utterly transforms her, as sports often do (and other activities like music, drama, debate team, whatever).

Her on the ground holding up the wrapper,
me with my hands up in victory,
“The CROWD GOES WIIILLLD!”
Two senior guys stroll by,
eyebrows raised.
We grin.

Volleyball has taught me to yell. 

Not only has volleyball taught Anke to yell, and stand up for herself and others, it’s also taught her about friendships.

She develops a friendship with another girl from the team with a troubled homelife, Rona, and this helps her grow more self-assured. I loved that in this novel, while there is a minor love-interest plot, this new friendship is more important to the novel and Anke’s transformation. That aspect to Because I am Furniture was extremely uplifting. 

Unlike the previous book I read dealing with family violence, I really connected with Anke—she’s tough and intelligent, but not artificially so. It read as appropriate and realistic for someone her age who’s been through a lot and has managed to remain whole. The character development is quite outstanding for such a relatively short novel.

However…

If you are bothered by intense descriptions of violence and abuse, I have to warn you that this is likely not be the book for you.

I struggled through Because I am Furniture at points, particularly when Anke witnesses the abuse of her siblings and wonders if it would be better to be in their places, not so she can same them from their suffering, but because she at least would not be ignored and invisible. It was a struggle being in Anke’s head at many, many points in Because I am Furniture, 

He went into Yaicha’s room
last night
after he hit her
across the mouth
for reading
Cosmo magazine.

I burned in my blood,
I turned to Mom
as we stood in the hall
and inside my head screamed,
DO something!

Her eyes glazed and wide
like an injured cat,
her mouth pulled tight,
Mom sighed in a voice that didn’t match,

“It’ll be okay.
He’s just making peace with her.”

And she walked away.

Because I am Furniture is filled with moments such as these. The experience of reading this book was extremely frustrating at times because I, like Anke, was extremely angered by her mother’s apathy toward what her children are experiencing (that’s what it appears to be, given that we’re experiencing everything through Anke’s eyes). And then I had to pull myself out of the reading book, and take some deep breaths before diving back into the pages.

And, that, as I mentioned earlier, is why Thalia Chaltas’ debut is such a strong example of the power of the verse form.

FNL Character Rating: Tyra, in the Humble Pie episode.

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{I Love} Novels in Verse