Asking For It

“They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.”

Title: Asking For It

Author: Louise O’Neill

Series: Standalone

Publication: September 3rd 2015 by Quercus UK

Pages: 346

Source: Library

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes.


My Thoughts:

I had a hard time reading this book, but not for the reasons you might be thinking. Yes, Asking For It is powerful and a much needed story, but it is far from the best book on the topic that I’ve ever read – actually, it is far from the best book I’ve ever read, period. I didn’t like it, not in the slightest. I support the deconstruction of rape culture within these pages, I support its stance and its message – but as a book? Not very high up there on my read list.

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Exit, Pursued by a Bear

 

“You’re okay with asking a nice girl who was wearing a pretty dress and had nice hair, who went to the dance with her cabin mates, who drank from the same punch bowl as everyone else – you’re okay with asking that girl what mistake she made, and you wouldn’t think to ask a boy how he would avoid raping someone?”

Title: Exit, Pursued by a Bear

Author: E.K Johnston

Series: Standalone

Publication:  March 15th 2016 by Dutton Books for Young Readers

Pages: 248

Source: Library

Summary from Goodreads:

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.


My Thoughts:

I have a lot of feelings about this book. Not only was Exit, Pursued by a Bear more than I was expecting, it was also everything I hoped it would be. It was powerful, poignant, and it brought a viewpoint on sexual assault that I’ve never seen in a book before. Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a hard book to read, and I had to get up on multiple occasions and walk away simply because I felt too much. This is a book I will never forget.

“Of course, if I were dead, they could just bury me, and move on. Broken is harder to deal with.”

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#ReadADessen Campaign: Just Listen

Hey all you lovely folks! I’m so excited to be participating in the #ReadADessen countdown/campaign as one of many  #PRHPartner’s. Today’s post is going to be a short review of Just Listen – perhaps my ultimate favorite my Sarah Dessen book. In addition, the bottom of this post will contain a link to the huge giveaway going on as part of the count down. YOU CAN WIN A WHOLE SET OF SARAH DESSEN BOOKS!

“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.”

Title: Just Listen

Author: Sarah Dessen

Series: Standalone

Publication: April 6th 2006 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Pages: 371

Source: Purchased

Summary from Goodreads:

Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store.

This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.

Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

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The Female of the Species

But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll.

Title: The Female of the Species

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Series: Standalone

Publication: September 20th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books

Pages: 341

Source: Library

Summary from Goodreads:

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.


All the Feelings:

The Female of the Species is too powerful for mere words. I cannot explain everything about this book or why I love it so much. It is dark, horrible, brutal, and amazing. It is everything it needed to be and more, and I can’t ask for anything other than that. So, I leave you with the evolution of my internal fangirling:

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Wrecked

These lists are about… point of view. Who tells the story. Ms. James gives us a list of narrators and Mr. Bockus gives us a different one. All in an attempt to grasp that great, elusive, bothersome thing: the truth. I wonder, Richard, why Mr. Bockus doesn’t want you to tell his side of the story?

Title: Wrecked

Author: Maria Padian

Series: Standalone

Publication: October 4th 2016 by Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 368

Source: Publisher in exchange for a honest review

Summary from Goodreads:

Everyone on campus has a different version of what happened that night.

Haley saw Jenny return from the party, shell-shocked.

Richard heard Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with.

When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Now conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible—especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.


My Thoughts:

Wow. I had to step away before I could even begin to sit here and try to write these words. I’m still not sure if what I have to say can be articulated through words alone. Wrecked is powerful, poignant, and provocative. It is the kind of book I needed to read in doses, I often found myself wandering away and trying to process the sheer magnitude of what I was reading. Wrecked is the type of book that demands to be read.

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What We Saw

“What does it mean to say yes? To consent to a kiss? To a touch? To more than that?”

Title: What We Saw

Author: Aaron Hartzler

Series: Standalone

Publication: September 22nd 2015 by Harper Teen

Pages: 336

Source: Publisher at ALA Annual

Summary:

Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

My Thoughts:

Wow…just wow. I finished What We Saw mere moments before sitting down to write this review and I don’t even know what to think right now. I’m overwhelmed, my brain is fried and my heart is both hurting and singing the praises of this wonderful novel. I don’t know what to say, I can’t find the words within myself to express how important books like this are. What We Saw is powerful, it challenges us to think of what our silence can do to other people, of what the difference between right and wrong truly is. Is being a bystander while a girl is raped considered helping the rapist? What about having the video of the rape and trying to cover it all up? This book was brutal, it was gut wrenching, and it has me at a loss for words.

Kate Weston can’t remember anything from the night of the party other than Ben driving her home and Stacey Stallard’s arm over her shoulder while the two of them took shots. The following week at school, four boys are arrested for the rape of Stacey Stallard and the distribution of child pornography (AKA: The video and photos they took while raping her). The problem is, no one believes Stacey. She was wearing a short skirt, she got drunk, so clearly it is her fault, right? Wrong, but no one says that. It’s her fault, she is dragging these boy’s good names through the dirt for no good reason – and that is what pissed me off the most. The entire town is the epitome of rape culture. The boys are angels, even with all the evidence (which, by the way, the coaches and teachers at the school are covering up – obviously). If you speak up for Stacey, try to figure out what actually happened that night, or even question one of the boys – you become an instant pariah and social outcast. It was appalling.

Writing this review is so hard – God, I don’t even know what to say. I loved this book, I have read multiple books about rape: All The Rage and Some Boys to name a few. All three books focus on a girl who is raped by the town’s golden boy, or in this case, boys. All three books focus on the aftermath, the hunt for the truth, and the brutal way these girls are treated. But, What We Saw is different than the other two novels – this book is not from the point of view of the victim, rather, this book is told from Kate Weston’s point of view, just another girl who was at the party. It provided a really unique voice to the story – an outside perspective on the events rather than someone who was directly affected by it. All Kate wants is to learn the truth, to know what really happened to Stacey the night of the party. I really liked Kate as a character. I liked that she questioned things when everyone else jumped to the basketball players side and that she wanted to find out the truth, not for gossip, but because the truth needed to be told. She showed a lot of growth as she struggled with herself over what right, who to trust, and who to protect. She tried her hardest to do what was right, to ignore what would happen if she told the truth after she found it – and I admire that strength. She isn’t perfect, she isn’t the character you think she is going to be. She doesn’t run to the victim’s defense right off the bat, she doesn’t instantly stop hanging out with the accused, she goes along with the teasing and even agrees that Stacey had to have done something to deserve it. But, Kate is real. She asks questions, she feels, she is curious, she cares – she even attempts to blend into the rest of the school, even though she knows that it isn’t right. She is such a real person, she doesn’t stand out from the crowd – she does exactly what most people today would do. What makes her incredible is that she allows herself to have an opinion when the rest of the world around her has already decided on what opinion to have.
In my last review, Lock & Mori, I wrote a paragraph about how the two girls were sexually harassed in the park and then called bitches because they couldn’t accept a compliment. This book also takes an in depth look as to how women and the victims of rape are treated after trying to come forward. There is a scene early on, after Stacey initially makes her allegations, where Kate searches the hashtag #R&P and finds a hoard of cruel words and threats thrown at the rape victim.

“@BuccsRock: Gonna rape her good for Sure now. #r&p #buccsincuffs
@Pheebus17: White trash ho was so drunk she couldn’t tell a dick from a doughnut. #buccsincuffs
@fr0nt&center: If we lose state cause of this whore she’s gonna get more than raped. #r&P #buccsincuffs”

How messed up is that? But, it is the truth of what happens in today’s society. It is the girls fault for getting drunk, for flirting with her rapist before he rapes her, for wearing something sexy, for not being coherent enough to verbally say no, for being unconscious. Stacey is completely unconscious when they rape her, and yet, no one cares or does a thing to stop it.

Overall, What We Saw is a powerful book that will make you stop and think about everything you see on social media. What you see isn’t always the truth, we all must unleash the bravery to come forward and question what we see, what we read, what we hear. This book does not sugar coat the ripple effects a single action, word, or tweet can have on a person. Hartzler’s book is one of the must read books of this year, if you don’t already have plans to buy it – make them.

Goodreads

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

I also want to take a moment here to direct you to Lady Gaga’s new music video “Til It Happens To You”. The video is meant to raise awareness of rape on college campuses and the proceeds are being given to organizations that help victims of sexual assault. This is a powerful video,  I’ve watched it about five times already and each time I end up a bawling mess.

Faking Normal

“There are no words to this music, and that makes me sad. Every song deserves lyrics. Deserves a story to tell.”

Title: Faking Normal
Author: Courtney Stevens
Series: Faking Normal # 1
Publication: February 25th 2014 by HarperTeen
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 336
Source: Author

Summary:
An edgy, realistic, and utterly captivating novel from an exciting new voice in teen fiction.
Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.
When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in “the Kool-Aid Kid,” who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth.
A searing, poignant book, Faking Normal is the extraordinary debut novel from an exciting new author-Courtney C. Stevens.
My Thoughts:

Usually, upon finishing a book, I think about it for a little while, write my review and then wave goodbye and move onto the next book on my TBR shelf. But with this book? There is a distinctively dull and painful ache that has yet to fade. I don’t know how else to describe it. I hurt, my heart hurts, my head hurts – everything hurts and every single part of me wants more of it.

Faking Normal, as books of this topic usually are, is not easy to stomach. It is brutal, it is graphic, it will tear your heart into little tiny pieces and then dance over what remains while laughing maniacally. This book deals with a controversial, taboo subject that never ceases to make my blood boil: rape.

Every day on the news we see reports of victims, women, young girls, men, who have been raped or sexually assaulted. There are scandals like Bill Cosby and then there are issues that we don’t really hear about like the twelve year old girl in Oregon who was raped numerous times by her father. These are the minority, the ones who have cried out for help, gone to the police, and tried to do something about what was done to them. This is such a small percentage that it breaks my heart, I can hardly stand to think about the others out there that we don’t even know about – but I do, because this is the norm.

The majority of rape victims have never spoken out, like our protagonist Alexi. These individuals have lost their ability to cry out for help, to say no, to fight back. These are the victims who fear coming out, who fear speaking up because of how they think it will change the world around them. They, like Alexi, don’t want to be known as “that girl”. They are terrified of the way people will look at them, especially the ones who don’t believe them.

I guess I should end my sort of rant now, I couldn’t help myself.

Faking Normal was brutal in its portrayal of the silent and suffering victim. It was all so real, so genuine, that I felt as if I was in Alexi’s shoes – and it made me want to throw up. I can understand where she is coming from for the most part, that idea of worthlessness the dirtiness, the need for release yet no way to let the pain out – all of it was far too real for me and far too close to home to let me walk away from this book unscathed. Victims of sexual assault hurting themselves is not unheard of, it is actually one of the things that the hospital and the counselors look out for. Alexi is just another wonderfully portrayed example of this. She tears at the skin of the back of her neck to try and keep the pain inside when faced with something she can’t handle. She puts on this mask to hide herself from the world while simultaneously trying to lie to herself and pretend that everything is okay when it really isn’t.

When we are introduced to Alexi she is a complete wreck. As I have already said, she is so deeply traumatized that she has to hide herself in her closet and dig her nails into her neck just to keep a straight face in front of her attacker and her family. Her characterization was pure perfection, as was her story arc and the way she dealt with the things thrown at her throughout the course of the novel. Stevens has crafted every single character with such care and devotion that each of them has a distinct voice and an amazingly in-depth personality. Alexi, despite her fractured interior, is filled with the normal – but selective to her situation – romantic fantasies about a dream guy and hilarious commentary on what is going on around her. She is broken and shattered, but she is also trying to hold herself together as best as she possibly can. Bodee, oh how I loved Bodee. He is unquestionably book boyfriend material that can even stand on the same pedestal as James Cairstairs. He is equally broken, but for different reasons. He was so kind, so generous, but so imperfectly real that I found it impossible not to love him. Despite being a man of few words – he’d be more likely to tell you something through a certain look or a tiny gesture rather than saying it out loud, Bodee was an essential part of Alexi’s journey, and vice versa. He had a very strong presence throughout the novel and I really enjoyed it. He was so observant and caring; he could tell you a million things just with one silent moment.

Faking Normal is beautiful, heart wrenching, and a must read novel. It is not easy to read, though there are happy moments that make it bearable, but it will hit you straight in the gut. Buy this book, rent it from the library, steal it from a friend – do whatever you need to do to read this. You won’t regret it.