I don’t actually know how I feel about this book – or even how to write this review. This post has been open all morning and I just can’t get the wording right. I did something i don’t usually do before I post my own reviews, and read other people’s reviews. It’s a tricky book and before we get into the synopsis and review let me give a clear trigger warning: this book is about rape and sexual assault. This review also contains spoilers.
Popular jock Ben meets new girl Ani in a 7-Eleven parking lot. Soon, they’re head-over-heels and totally made for each other. Then, Ani goes to a party without Ben and something terrible happens to her. When she wakes up the next day, she can’t remember if what happened was consensual or not. And everything spins out of control.
The story is told from Ben’s perspective, which is an interesting angle. I’m often interested in the stories of the family, friends and partners of terrible events (rape, addiction, prostitution etc) as I think it’s important that there are stories and ways for people who are the loved ones to cope with what’s happening to their family member/friend/lover. It’s not spoken about all that often, so I liked the decision to tell it from his POV.
One of my biggest problems with this book is the cover. It seems innocuous at first – but Ani is raped with a lighter. Which just makes this book 100% awful to look at every single moment throughout this story. It’s just… wrong, on so many levels. There was absolutely no need to use a lighter as the image for this story, it could have been illustrated in so many better ways.
I think handling it from Ben’s POV was done well, but it is tricky as it deals with him not knowing whether or not he believes her. Which, while most likely realistic, almost feels a bit victim shaming at some points (along with her negative date rape test results and the constant bickering with Kate, Ani’s friend who was at the party with her, and Ben early on about who’s fault it is).
But I think what upset me most was the ending. There was no resolution, just a god awful ending that feels so devoid of hope. Spolier ahead: I get that Ben can’t save her – and that’s definitely right that he doesn’t and can’t. But to end it with him telling her mom after she’s given a teacher a blow job and just have no follow through about what happens next? Just that Ani is no longer his problem? I don’t feel this was the right way to end the book, especially for anyone who went through a rape or knows someone it does. It basically just feels like they’re saying it’s hopeless for Ani. And is that the kind of message YA should be carrying? I get that not all people can get over a rape, I really do, but when it’s literature aimed at young minds I do think there’s a responsibility to be a lot more…I don’t know, tactful? Hopeful?
I’m not sure how I feel. I enjoyed a lot of the style in the early bits and was totally gripped by Ben’s internal battle as he tries help Ani, but the ending just makes the whole thing sour and depressing. Also, let me say again, that’s one fucked up cover.
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