Definitely the most readable of Hayden's books that I've read. Which is not to say that the subject matter was pleasant - far from it. But the narrative flowed a lot more smoothly, and I didn't find myself as frustrated with the author as I have in her past books.
The book was written in the 1980s (first published in 1991), and there are some things she was able to get away with then that would definitely not fly in a public school today - picking an unruly boy up by his belt and shirt collar, lifting a six-year-old girl's shirt up (in the classroom) to check for signs of scoliosis, locking yourself and that girl in the cloakroom because that's the only place the girl feels safe enough to tell about the abuse she's been subjected to. There's a scene where Hayden and the girl are locked in the cloakroom, and the girl (who hasn't spoken at school in ages) suddenly starts yelling at the top of her lungs (because she can, because she's safe). A teacher in the next room comes running, tries the door and finds it locked; Hayden tells her everything is ok, and that's good enough for the other teacher. (This after Hayden had only been at the school lest than a semester.) If that happened in today's schools, the principal would be knocking the door down to be sure the teacher wasn't abusing the child herself.
I was disappointed that the book didn't have a solid resolution of Jadie's (the girl's) situation. Hayden finally gets her to tell the authorities about the abuse, and her story is checked out, but no definitive evidence is found. The book isn't really about having that resolution; it's more about Jadie working through her emotional and mental issues to get to the point she can talk and participate in life. But it would have been nice to know what, exactly, actually did happen. Hayden kept in contact with Jadie and her sister, so she was able to let the reader know that Jadie went on to graduate from college and do well in life, but we never do find out if the abuse and everything that went with it were real, or if they were products of Jadie's mind, created to deal with all the bad things that were happening to her.