Author: Courtney Summers
Summary: The sheriff's son, Kellan Turner is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything--friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy's only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn't speak up. Nobody believed her the first time--and they certainly won't now--but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.
Why I read it: After reading This is Not a Test last year, I fell in love with Courtney Summers's writing and her storytelling. So I knew that I was going to start buying every book she ever writes. And I felt a deep need to read it right away.
Thoughts: This book. I know that I've seen these exact words from many reviewers and bloggers already, but this is an important book. Not just a good book (but it is excellent, too). But an IMPORTANT one.
The book begins a year after Romy's rape, so we are thrust into her life as she deals with the fallout and aftermath of her accusations. Her friends have abandoned her, her family has suffered, and her only armor is the red lipstick and red nail polish she obsessively applies.
The story isn't told in a straightforward manner; there are a couple of flashbacks, and then a flashforward, but it's an effective story-telling tool. Every event is placed in the timeline very deliberately in order to better explain something else that is happening, or to pack an emotional punch. And boy, did those punches hurt.
Romy is beautifully written, and it's so easy to fall into her corner, backing her at every confrontation. At the same time, she doesn't always make the right choice, and in that aspect, she is profoundly realistic. I think people want to believe that rape victims are all the same: shy and defeated and fading into invisibility. Romy does the opposite; she tries to be stronger, better, harder, determined to not be a victim anymore. And in doing so, she hurts people. And though I often wished for her to do better, I felt I understood her every move and every emotion.
And that hurt, too. Realizing that everything she did, for better or worse, she did because she felt it was out of her control.
Every supporting character also feels like a real person, from Romy's mom and her boyfriend, to Romy's classmates at school, and even Romy's coworkers. Every character has a backstory, a reason they are the way they are. Every character has a reason for being in the story. Romy's mom and her boyfriend, Todd, broke my heart. Unlike many YA novels, the parents here are always there, worried and trying to understand. They broke my heart knowing exactly how much they wanted to help Romy, but not knowing how because they didn't know exactly what was going on. Then there's Leon, Romy's coworker at the diner who has a romantic interest in Romy. The way this relationship played out was also so realistic it hurt.
The mystery aspect was also an interesting way to move the story forward, and the way it all unfolded was imperative to Romy's journey.
The one thing I absolutely knew going into this book was that the writing would be perfect. Having previously read This is Not a Test, I expected the prose to be beautiful, and I wasn't disappointed.
I won't lie. It physically hurt to read this book. It's eye-opening to realize that this is exactly the way so many girls get treated when they've accused someone of rape or sexual assault, especially in a small town like the one in the book. Their words are not believed. The boy tells a different story, and his word is gold. Even when she is believed, the focus is often, "This boy had so much ahead of him, and now it's all been taken away. His future is being taken away" or "The girl had too much to drink. She was wearing provocative clothes. She had a crush on him in the first place." She is shunned, and bullied, and abandoned by others who don't even want to associate with the "girl who cried rape."
It's sickening. And frustrating. And completely rage-inducing. And that's why this book hurts so much.
But it's also why this book is so important. Everyone should read this, and think long and hard about all those cases they've heard of and how they reacted to them.
I can't recommend this book enough. Whether you've read Courtney Summers before or not, you should pick this up.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Tell me: have YOU read this book yet? What were your thoughts? Share them in the comments below!