3 out of 4 stars
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Fascination with murder, especially when it is committed in succession by the same mysterious person, is a cultural phenomenon. Many viewers can't resist the allure of watching the story unfold, but what if your seven-year-old son was the victim? What if the perpetrator was also a victim of some sort?
Aasia Gale Stormm, MSP — "a Victim, Former Police Officer, Activist, Substance Abuse Therapist, Author, Entrepreneur, Radio Host, International Journalist, and Mother" — unearths these questions in her research-based non-fiction novel Exacerbate; From Victim to Killer. Her first book, Light in the Darkest Hours, explores the pain she felt after the brutal murder of her only son. This second book is more methodical, as it studies seven serial murderers and their social and psychological backgrounds. The first seven chapters profile each killer, followed by a welcome summary of the author's experience with murder, then a deeper exploration of religious elements and "PSystems" (a term Stormm created to describe how psychological systems, such as energy flow, manifest in physical systems, such as the endocrine system). Each chapter includes thoughtful study questions and a relevant anonymous poem.
At its core, Exacerbate; From Victim to Killer analyzes why some victimized people become violent while others do not. As Stormm herself expresses, "I wanted to want to kill them all." She couldn't. She largely credits this nonviolence — though not void of agonizing grief and rage — to her Christian faith. This is a substantial part of the book, as most of one chapter entirely consists of Bible verses, so non-Christian readers may not be able to relate as readily. Her personal mantra, for example, is Ephesians 6:13.
Stormm's voice is passionate yet calculated, reflecting her current doctoral studies in psychiatry. This book is only a preview of her dissertation; hopefully, another book with more findings will follow! My favorite part of the book was Stormm's personal but academic insight, such as her definition of murderers as "victimized perpetrators." This intentional description sheds light on the humanity of those who commit atrocious crimes; after all, they are still human. On the other hand, I craved more details. At over 400 standard pages, the book can't be expected to cover everything in depth, but I disliked that Stormm's illustrations of "characters" and events were somewhat lacking, even when describing her own trauma. However, this does make the book more accessible to sensitive readers who still want to understand the psychological foundation of killers. Perhaps this book could be split into several volumes, each diving deeper into the subject but maintaining an overarching theme and message.
Overall, I rate Exacerbate; From Victim to Killer 3 out of 4 stars. This book is an intellectual, well-organized analysis of victimization and subsequent violence or nonviolence. It contains no profanity and surprisingly minimal descriptions of violent and sexually explicit scenes, though I believe it is important to warn readers that some scenes include rape. Unfortunately, there were too many grammatical and typographical errors to ignore, mainly regarding formatting and punctuation. With some editorial polishing, many of this book's contents could be included in current psychiatric research. I'd recommend Exacerbate; From Victim to Killer to readers who love to explore murderous behaviors and the psyche, as well as to those who appreciate a story of resilience and the testing of emotional strength.
Exacerbate; From Victim to Killer
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