Three years ago, sixteen-year-old Maddie Deacon was abducted on her way home from her school’s Art Showcase. Five months ago, she escaped the madman she calls The Painter. Before being taken, painting was Maddie’s life. Now, it’s her nightmare.
Maddie wants to forget her years in captivity. She’d rather spend her time getting reacquainted with her parents and her sister, not to mention her cello-playing, beautiful boy next door and childhood best friend Wesley. But paint is everywhere, and tormenting shadows linger in every portrait she encounters.
When the yearly Art Showcase once again approaches, Maddie has the chance to win a scholarship and start planning a future far away from the horrors of her past. She knows she has to make a choice–confront her memories of The Painter and overcome her fear of the canvas, or give up painting forever.
14+ due to adult situations, language
“Hello, Maddie,” Tim says, taking a sip from his Healing Expressions coffee cup. I’m glad he and Juliet call me Maddie instead of Madison, like Klara does. I’ve gone by Maddie since my days in preschool, and being called it here makes the office seem slightly less institutional.
Of course, it doesn’t make this moment any less awful.
“H-hi,” I stammer, my voice thin. My feet ache as I force them across the threshold. Tim prefers it if I close the door behind me, but I need to see my escape route. Shakily, I cross the room and sit on the bench along the wall of windows that look down over the parking lot. The cushions are soft, bright orange, and there are pink and green and blue throw pillows scattered along the seat. I grab the blue one, and hug it to my chest as I stare at the world on the free side of the glass panes.
It’s a strange sensation, watching the world like this. In elementary school, at recess, I would sit by the fences backing the neighborhood houses. With my head tilted into the cool fall or warm spring breeze, I would close my eyes and picture the people in those houses: people not working, people working from home, people driving the streets or watering their lawns or relaxing in front of the TV, while I remained stuck at school for another several hours. I have the same thoughts now as I gaze over the parking lot, far out to the park, the townhouse complex, and the streets beyond. So many people sleeping, reading, shopping––all while I’m here, trapped behind a wall of glass.
It helps to keep my back to the easel. Slowly, the panic of my arrival subsides, and I take full gulping breaths until I’ve settled into muted unease.
“How are you feeling today, Maddie?” Tim asks. He remains seated. I get antsy if his six-foot-three inch body looms over me.
“I’m fine,” I lie. I’m never fine. Not anymore. But declaring it is like stating the obvious.
“How’s school?” I can hear a smile in his voice. I like Tim’s voice, with its deep, quietly enthusiastic tone. I’m fairly certain I like Tim, too. Or at least I would, if the circumstances were different. If he didn’t have the task of prying, of guiding me into frigid, infested waters every time we meet.
“It’s fine,” I say, shrugging my shoulders.
Tim’s chair scrapes across the floor as he stands. I keep my eyes fixed on the parking lot outside. I’ve found Wesley’s tiny van, and I watch it intently.
Tim approaches, sits on the bench a ways off. “Did you read any papers this week?”
“No.” The tension I nearly shed on the ride over here is creeping back again. I hate therapy. I don’t understand how digging into every unpleasant crevice of my subconscious is supposed to make my life easier.
“How about the news? Did you watch any?” Tim asks, even though I’m already shaking my head.
“Y-You know I didn’t,” I reply, and Tim breathes out, the resulting sound just short of a sigh.
“How many times have you had to avoid his picture?” he asks, and I squeeze the pillow until my fingers are white.
“S-Seventy … S-Seventy-two,” I choke out.
It’s become a habit keeping track of the number of times I stop myself from seeing him. When I go to the drugstore and see the papers lined in a hideous row. When the news comes on, and reporters rehash what happened.
In the beginning, it was far harder. There were articles all over, news stories, constant threats to my sanity. Five months on, most of my count comes from the personal attacks, the times I remember something, imagine something, and his face almost manages to push its way in.
“Good. An improvement on last week,” Tim says, the pleasing smoothness of his voice giving the achievement a more respectable air than it deserves. Last week there were seventy-eight occurrences. Having six fewer episodes means nothing, except Tim is trying to be as positive as possible.
Plus, there’s the phone call to consider. Last week might have been an improvement, but I’m certain my methods of diversion will fail to keep me from replaying the conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear this morning.
Posted by Mary Ann on 19th Feb 2016
Maddie is free from The Painter which is what she calls her abductor. But she still hasn’t escaped him totally. She sees him in everything she tries to do. Art was her life and because of that she sees him still everywhere.
She has to try and find herself again in this nightmare that is her life now. She wants to be herself again but she will never be that person again. The kidnapping has changed her forever. I feel that she has a constant struggle to get through each day. She goes to see therapists but isn’t ready to talk to either of them.
As the story is told, I find myself pulled in and cheering her on. Hoping that eventually she finds that her life has to have painting in it. That it is a part of who she was and still is even though it is overshadowed by the Painter. In the end, painting her kidnapper helps her to heal.
Wesley her neighbor has always been her friend and even though there was no romance there before Maddie finds herself hoping there is more there. I want there to be the romance of teen love but it seems to take a long time to get there. Maddie has to find her way back to him first.
I really liked the relationship Maddie had with her sister. Her sister loved life and tried to enjoy everything knowing how fragile things were. Maddie also saw how much she had to suffer because of Maddie’s kidnapping. Their parents were so afraid to let them do anything which is understandable since they lost Maddie once. They wanted to keep her and her sister safe.
Posted by Danielle E. Shipley on 19th Feb 2016
I’ll admit I went somewhat dubiously into this book. Not because of any particular doubts about the author – I’ve followed her blog for some while, and so knew she was quite capable of stringing a sentence together – but because of the book’s premise. This isn’t the sort of story I usually gravitate toward. And yet, as it unfolded chapter by chapter, I began to think that, just maybe, it’s the sort of story I kind of needed to read right now.
I felt so much for Maddie – someone trying for normal after everything’s been cruelly shaken up and she doesn’t feel like herself; doesn’t know what self she even is, anymore.
I empathized more than I thought I would. Related more than I expected to. Though I’m blessedly ignorant of what I’d think and feel and do in Maddie’s situation, her telling of it rang true and honest. She made it understandable. And with or without the traumatic cause, I know all too well how painful it is to be an artist who is – for whatever reason – unable to feed their starving passion.
I might as well also point out that Maddie’s determinedly enthusiastic little sister came darn close to making me cry. So here’s to you, Mere Joyce.
This book read like art, and I deeply appreciated it. Simple as that.
Posted by Tonja Drecker on 19th Feb 2016
I'm not usually a big fan of coming-to-terms-with drama, but Blank Canvas swept me in and didn't let go. The main character, Maddie, has escaped from being held in the basement of a madman she names The Painter. We meet her five months after her escape, and even though she refuses to really work with the therapists, it seems as if she's already worked her way through some things, which gave the story a good point to start off from.
We are given bits and pieces of what happened to Maddie during that horrible time, just enough to hint at how horrendous it was without delving on the period too much. I appreciated that because it let the story really focus on what the plot was about - her healing. Certain points are even kept hidden on purpose, allowing a nice mystery and suspense to filter in. This being from Maddie's viewpoint, the reader gets to know her very well--but not completely. It was a great twist which made me want to read on.
The setting itself was simply well done. It's easy to fall into Maddie's world and understand why she does what she does. The school itself is only lightly touched upon, but this isn't Maddie's main focus either. It's her closer environment, her family and long-term friend next door, which play the center in her life and take color in the story. I loved the interactions and felt my own heartstrings pulling as Maddie tries to find balance with the ones she loves.
There's a sweet romance, nothing shocking or unexpected. Simply sweet and that's perfect for a character like Maddie.
Summed up, I really enjoyed this and am glad I got a chance to read it (through winning a copy). The writing is wonderful and the author really knows how to pull the reader in. I can't wait to see what other stories will be coming from this author.