Something real had happened last night. Something horrible had happened to Melanie.
Title: The Word for Yes
Author: Claire Needell
Publication: February 16th 2016 by HarperTeen
Summary from Goodreads:
After their parents’ divorce, Jan, Erika, and Melanie have to get used to the new world order: a father who’s moved to another continent and a mother who throws herself into moving on. Jan, off at her first semester of college, has plenty to worry about, including an outspoken roommate who’s kind of “out there” and an increasingly depressed and troubled long-distance boyfriend. Her younger sisters, left at home in New York City, and dealing with all the pressures of life in high school, aren’t exactly close. Erika is serious and feels awkward and uncomfortable in crowds, though her beauty tends to attract attention. Melanie is socially savvy and just wants to go out—to concerts, to parties, wherever—with her friends. The gap between all three girls widens as each day passes.
Then, at a party full of blurred lines and blurred memories, everything changes. Starting that night, where there should be words, there is only angry, scared silence.
And in the aftermath, Jan, Erika, and Melanie will have to work hard to reconnect and help one another heal.
At once touching and raw, Claire Needell’s first novel is an honest look at the love and conflicts among sisters and friends, and how these relationships can hold us together—and tear us apart.
This is one of those reviews that is immensely difficult to write. First of all, I want to begin by saying that my view of the book as a whole in no way reflects my opinions on the topic itself. When it comes down to the meat of the pie, as it were, the writing just couldn’t hold up to my expectations, leading this book into a downward spiral all of its own.
The Word for Yes was meant to be a harrowing, real, in depth journey through the aftereffects of rape. This isn’t the first book of its kind, and I certainly hope there are more to come. Rape is certainly something that needs to be discussed and the stories of the women are just as important. Books like All the Rage, Speak, Faking Normal, and Some Boys are infinity important to our society and to those who read them. The Word for Yes, while touching on that same topic, does so in such a way that therefore diminishes the impact of what should have been the central podium for all else to stand on. There is a difference between writing a book about the effects of rape and using rape as a plot device. This book is the latter.
In my eyes, the plot device approach stems from the writing itself. It was painfully dull. There is a way to write like Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens and make it seem not so dense and stuffy. Needell failed to do just that. There is a detachment from everything going on and it simply does not work. You can’t remove us from the experience of the characters when the story is meant to be about the characters themselves – that defeats the whole purpose of caring for the characters in the first place. Fundamentally, that was what this story lacked. Yes, hell yes I care about rape (don’t even get me started), but when I don’t care about the little details of the novel, it makes it almost impossible to impose that same level of feeling I get normally. There is a way to handle a sensitive topic, and The Word for Yes missed the mark.
The Word for Yes‘ dry and emotionless tone diminished what could have been an outstanding book on a much needed discussion. Between the lack of character development and the glossing over and practically forgetting of one of the largest plot points in the book, The Word for Yes falls woefully short of my expectations. With stiff writing, no resolution (even a glimpse of one for any of the characters), and an overall awkward handling of events, The Word for Yes is something I would recommend steering clear of. Go read All the Rage instead.