The 1 in 4 number frightens me. It's not just thinking about what kind of society we live in that produces that number, it's all the victims it doesn't include, the ones that go unreported. How can we help them? How can we support them? How can we help them transition into thinking of themselves as survivors rather than victims? It's not enough to tell them we understand because chances are we don't. Still, it is important that they know someone does.
Young Adult author and rape survivor Alina B. Klein has attempted to do so with her debut novel, Rape Girl.
Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.
But not the rape girl.
who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know
the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think
Valerie’s telling it.
Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and
a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a
house full of strangers.
The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same.
Girl is the compelling story of a survivor who does the right thing and
suffers for it. It is also the story of a young woman’s struggle to
find the strength to fight back.
I've recently had the honor of reading an ARC of Rape Girl (release date Aug 15 2012). Rape Girl inflamed my anger, touched my heart, and gave me hope. Our main character, Valerie, is like so many girls we know - eager to please, willing to break a few house rules to gain popularity, and dying to get some attention from her crush. We see in her the girl who could be inside any of us. Except then she shows us a bit more. It's bad enough that she has to go through the process of pressing charges and all that entails, but when that is said and done, Valerie has to go through more. The people around her, who should be supportive, don't believe her. It is truly devastating, and to think that this happens daily (and we know it does) is just awful. Yet Valerie shows us how someone ordinary can become extraordinary. I wanted to reach through the pages and hug her, tell her that she was a wonderful human being who didn't deserve to have this happen to her, yet I knew that she was going to be okay when all was said and done. I wanted to tell her I was proud and happy that she had found strength in herself. She was beautiful and brave.
In addition to the wonderful main character, Alina B. Klein does a superlative job of bringing all the secondary players into sharp, and realistic, focus. From the flaky best friend to the un-supportive school administrators. To the loving, and unsure-of-herself mother to the rapist's crazy, and somewhat scary friends. Everyone had their role to play and even though the book is written in first person, we were able to see how they all handled it, sometimes for good, sometimes not. I think the secondary character I loved the most was Sandrina. She seems to come out of nowhere, a girl who Valerie thought was basically her enemy, only she proves to be one of the few friends that Valerie can count on. I loved her charisma and how her slips of Spanish melded into the story so smoothly and made me want to run out and find a best friend just like her. I also appreciated the character of Wesley and what he brought to the table. With the subject of rape, it's easy to assume that the victims become regressed, fearful and shy away from boys. But that's not necessarily the case, and Wesley's role in the story and how Valerie deals with her feelings toward him illustrated that point beautifully.
Spoiler!! (highlight if you want to read): The ending tore me apart, even though there was a lot of hope there, and Valerie proves herself to be brave - yet again - I really just felt like I wanted to punch the rapist in the balls. And then scratch his eyes out. And then punch him in the balls again. Hehehe... Obviously I would have been more satisfied if Valerie had gotten her day in court, but I kind of liked that Klein decided not to do that. It was more realistic with respect to what often happens in these cases, and even though it pissed me off, I can see the value in showing that Valerie was going to be okay even though she didn't get the justice she deserved.
The writing. I can't leave a review without touching on the writing. I thought the prose here was simply marvelous. It had a natural flow and incorporated many unique details that made the scenes come alive. It was witty and to the point. The book itself is rather short, but it says all it needs to say and then some.
This book deserves five stars, hands down. Keep your ears open because I'll be doing a Rape Girl giveaway when it comes out on August 15th! Also, be sure to visit Alina's blog. It's very cool!