ARC Review: Rape Girl by Alina Klein


title:  Rape Girl

author:  Alina Klein 

pages: 126

format: Kindle ARC

isbn/asin: 978-1608981236

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 4/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson.  Teenagers and anyone who has contact with teenagers.  Anyone who's ever sent a blaming tweet or a flippantly callous comment.  Anyone who feels misunderstood.  

My Ratings Explained

Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.

But not the rape girl.

That’s 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.

the basics
This is not a great book, but it's an important one.  The story was often fragmented and disconnected by time lapses.  Valerie was sometimes difficult to get  handle on.  The ending happened at such an unexpected point, I thought I'd missed something.  That said, it's my fondest hope that everyone who is or was a teenager will read this book.  I'd go so far as to make it mandatory reading for high school freshmen.  Rape Girl is the alarm bell of its generation.  It's a devastating picture of rape in a time of Facebook, texting, Twitter.  A world where the victim is on trial and the perpetrator, protected and hailed.  The world of Stuebenville and Maryville.  Valerie's story is of the blamed victim.  She was raped like most women are--not at knifepoint, but through force and manipulation.  She reported it and immediately found herself on trial--by her classmates, her school, even her family.  Because she has ruined their lives.  It seems preposterous, right?  But it happens all the time.  Klein's book is a tough read that spotlights some of the most dangerous features of rape culture--and through it all, one girl's survival.    

plot . 4/5
The plot was difficult for me to get a handle on sometimes.  A lot of time goes on in a very short book, requiring the use of time lapses, flashbacks, and a decent amount of skimming.  While it allowed for a broad overview of Valerie's timeline, it also made me feel less connected to her than I wanted to be.  I wanted to experience everything along with her.  It works in some ways, to keep you in the dark and, perhaps, help you to understand Valerie's own fragmentation.  Perhaps.  There were just so many threads unexplored or underexplored.  The coffee shop.  The survivor's group.  The school backlash.  That said, Klein does a great job of twisting in the knife.  Valerie is raped, then reviled by her best friend, then moved from her classes, then asked to make peace with her rapist by a dubious principal.  Her mother is in shambles.  The prosecuter is unwilling to push forward a he said - she said case.  It's many girls' story.  Klein lays it out like one insult upon the next, really hitting home the tragedy that Valerie faces the moment she dares tell the truth.  It was sweet to see her receive some closure at the end, but very protracted.  A more bittersweet, hopeful but hopeless, ending would have fit better with the tone.  

concept . 5/5
Rape is a public thing.  Once you tell, you're a moving target.  There's Facebook, where you can be unfriended, stalked, harassed.  Texts, where your best friend can beg you to recant, where your rapist can threaten you.  Instagram, where pictures of your unconscious body collect like ragdolls.  This is Valerie's world, and it's a reality for hundreds of thousands of young women.  Klein weaves the story to push all the right buttons.  It begins with Valerie and her friend throwing a party, with alcohol, while her mom is gone.  Her fault, right?  That's where the plot nudges you, then forces you to face your own victim blaming.  A clever, and crucial switch.  A confrontation with our choice between believing what is comfortable and believing what is true.  The more Klein allows Valerie's world to fall apart, the more you're faced with the injustice of it all.  No one asks a victim robbed at gunpoint to prove his credibility.  Yet Valerie is hounded every day.  Called a liar.  Misguided.  Threatened.  Isolated.  If you come out of this book without a new perspective, you haven't been paying attention.  

characters . 4/5
Valerie isn't the easiest character to get a hold of.  She feels more like the "rape girl" than her own person.  Perhaps this is intentional.  Perhaps Klein wants to impress upon the reader how depersonalizing rape is.  How everyone views Valerie only as raped and not as herself.  However, I was hoping for a little more Valerie.  Who she was.  What she dreamed.  Who she was beyond this terrible crime.  Perhaps the most important character is Adam.  The rapist.  He's not a bottle-throwing, gun-toting criminal.  He's a high school sports player.  He's charming.  He's every girl's crush gone wrong.  This is important, because it is just these kinds of people whose crimes are never believed.  To the end, Adam believes that she wanted it.  That her attraction to him was a free pass.  Unrepentant.  Adam's behavior and the town's reaction to him, taking is side, is the most horrifying part of this story.  Adam may be a caricature, but he's a real one.  I also appreciated the complexity of Valerie's mom.  She at once draws away from and defends her daughter.  She's lost.  She's broken.  She's evidence that rape is not a private crime.  

style . 4/5
I don't have much to say about the writing style.  Klein clearly has talent, but also plenty of room to grow.  I would have liked to see tighter writing, more incisive writing.  I won't harp on it, though.  Like I said before: this is not that kind of review.    

mechanics . 4/5
My main complaint is the piecemeal nature of the plot.  I think such an important part of reading this book is being able to empathize fully with Valerie.  That's made more difficult when she's presented in slivers and slices.  Again, perhaps this was intentional?  To reveal her as she might be revealed to a jury, or a news station?  I can't decide.  I can only say that, for me, it made it more difficult to see her as a real person.  

take home message
A heartbreaking story of rape in the modern world.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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