Title: Reinventing Hannah
Author: Jack A Ori
Genre: Young Adult
Everything was exactly the same as it was before she'd gone to the party. It was only her that was different…
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Kollman's become so wrapped up in proving to herself that she's not like her mom that she's lost sight of who she really is.
Her shy, sweet persona involves being the vice-president of Students Against Destructive Decisions and hanging out with friends who she thinks share her wholesome values. And it definitely does not include dating Brad Ashton, the class clown and ex-stoner she secretly crushes on.
But after she gives in to her more free-spirited friend and goes with her to a college party, Hannah's innocence is shattered when she becomes the victim of an unspeakable crime: a drugged drink and an assault she doesn't remember the next morning.
And as she struggles to put her identity back together, she sheds her persona as the quiet girl who doesn't rock the boat. But does reinventing herself as a bold advocate who stands up for herself and other survivors mean leaving her old friends behind?
Hannah took so long arguing with herself at her locker about whether Brad believed the rumors and whether she gave a fuck if he did that almost all the seats in the front half of her Chemistry classroom were full by the time she got to class. The only seat left was next to Molly, who was the only other girl in the class, and Hannah had to walk past Nathan to get there. She felt like she was wading through quicksand as she forced herself into the room.
Molly lowered her voice as soon as Hannah sat down and asked her if it was true that she’d got drunk at the party.
“Molly!” Hannah’s head hurt and her throat felt tight. “How can you think I’d ever . . .”
“I don’t want to! But you won’t tell me anything about the party and neither will Sierra, and it’s obvious something happened. I don’t care if you did drink or whatever else. I’m still your best friend. You can tell me.”
Hannah pretended to be having a hard time unscrewing her pen cap while she thought about it. “I didn’t drink,” she said firmly, “and the rest of it isn’t something I want to talk about.”
The bell rang and Mr. Dawson came in. Thank God.
“Today’s not a lab day, is it?” Hannah whispered to Molly as Mr. Dawson started the lesson.
Molly shook her head slightly but said nothing, and Hannah wasn’t sure if it was because Mr. Dawson might call them out for talking or because she was mad at her.
Mr. Dawson wrote an equation on the board. “Which one of you wants to be the brave soul who tries to balance this chemical reaction for us and risk everyone discovering you know nothing?”
Hannah rubbed the back of her neck, trying to get rid of her headache. Mr. Dawson said things all the time about everyone being stupid. He made it sound like a joke, but it wasn’t funny. Hannah’s worst fear was him calling on her and her not knowing the answer.
“How about you, Hannah?” Mr. Dawson said. “Come up to the board and show us if you learned anything over the weekend, though I highly doubt it.”
As Hannah got up, her heart pounding, Nathan said, “I bet the only chemical equation she knows is what happens when a penis meets a vagina.” He and his friend Paul, who was sitting next to him, both doubled over with laughter.
Mr. Dawson’s eyes landed on them for half a second, and Hannah thought he might actually have the decency to tell them to cut it out, but Mr. Dawson just said, “We’re waiting, Hannah. Come on.”
Hannah walked up to the board, holding her head up as high as possible to show Nathan he wasn’t going to get to her. She looked at the problem.
N2(g) + H2 (g)→ NH3 (g)
After she was grounded, Hannah had spent the rest of Sunday in her room studying chemical equations, but now it was like she’d never seen one before. She picked up the dry erase marker, but she couldn’t think because in her head she was hearing the boy in homeroom asking her if she’d really got drunk and slept with a bunch of guys and Molly begging her to tell her what happened at the party and Nathan basically calling her a slut too.
She let her breath out slowly and told herself to forget that and focus. There were two nitrogen atoms on one side, so it was easy to balance that. All she had to do was put a two in front of the NH3. She did, then stared at the problem. She just needed to balance it now, and she knew exactly what to do. But she was half thinking about how long it was going to take all the people who called her Saint Hannah to be mean to start calling her Slut Hannah instead, and by accident, she wrote the three in front of the N instead of the H and had to erase it.
“You’re going to win a lot of science competitions with that speed,” Mr. Dawson said. “Sit down, Hannah, you’re clearly guessing.”
Hannah ignored him, picking up the marker again. But Mr. Dawson said, “I said, sit down. Let someone who knows what they’re doing do that.” He took a step toward her, and Hannah dropped the marker before he could touch her.
“Leave me alone!” she said.
Everyone was laughing except Molly. Nobody was bothering to hide it. Hannah said, “For your information, the correct coefficients are one, three, and a two on the other side. I’m not stupid like you think I am.” She hurried back to her seat and threw herself into it before anyone could say anything.
Mr. Dawson said, as if nothing had happened, “Nathan, you’re on the hot seat next. Show us how it’s done, will you, and try not to cry if it’s hard.” All the boys giggled as he turned to write another equation on the board.
Molly leaned over and whispered, “Hey. You okay?”
“No talking, girls,” Mr. Dawson said, saving Hannah from having to explain herself to Molly for the second time in one class period. “Especially you, Hannah. Pay attention and you might actually learn something.”
Hannah’s eyes narrowed and she wrote the new problem on her paper, determined to solve it faster than Nathan. It seemed to her that he took twice as long at the board as she had, but Mr. Dawson didn’t say anything, so she guessed she was wrong.
“Excellent,” Mr. Dawson said when Nathan finally finished, even though Hannah had had the right answer for ten minutes already.
Nathan smirked as he passed Hannah’s desk. “Looks like I’m gonna beat your grades this quarter, huh, Slut Hannah?”
Hannah ignored him. Instead, she glared at the back of Mr. Dawson’s head as he erased the board.
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There are many stories out there for survivors, but many of them follow the protagonist as she spirals down into self-destruction. Reinventing Hannah goes in the opposite direction, telling an empowering story about a young woman who refuses to be defined by her trauma and who breaks her self-imposed silence so that she can become an advocate both for herself and other survivors. If you are a survivor or know one, this book is for you.
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Ever since his gender transition in 2012, Jack Ori has been empowering “quiet warriors” through writing to find their voices, express their true selves, and stand up for causes they believe in. His debut novel, Reinventing Hannah, was a semi-finalist in the 2020 Kindle Book Review awards; he is currently working on a domestic thriller starring a young doctor who struggles with PTSD-related memory loss after escaping an abusive relationship partner. Jack is also an advocacy coach who helps real-life Hannahs transform themselves into bold advocates for change. He lives on Long Island, New York.
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