Review: Rape Girl by Alina Klein

March 11, 2013 Review 10

Rape Girl coverTitle: Rape Girl
Author: Alina Klein

Published: September 2012
Format & Source: eBook (Netgalley)
Pages: 126
Genre(s): YA, contemporary

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.

[Goodreads] [Amazon]

— Cover Critique —

I think the cover is intriguing, but it has always puzzled me. What is its symbolism? That if you are a survivor of rape that you have to have wear armour to handle our rape culture that blames the victim? I’d love to know what you believe the cover stands for – let me know in the comments!

— Expectations —

I requested this one after reading Kelly at Radiant Shadow’s review a while ago. Then I promptly forgot about the book on my e-reader until I realized I needed to read it before it expired. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from such a short novel. I was also worried that because the title was so blunt it may not treat rape seriously or the topic as thoroughly. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded.

— Review —

Rape Girl by Alina Klein is not a perfect novel with pages that you want to highlight endlessly, and characters that you will fall in love with. It is a novel that will (or at least should) stir up uncomfortable and uneasy feelings within you: disgust, anger, frustration, and despair, among many others. While it may not be an enjoyable read, it is an important one nonetheless!

Rape Girl is Valerie, a seventeen year old girl who has been raped by her crush, Adam, while intoxicated. All her friends and classmates believe that Valerie is “crying rape”, or making a false accusation, as the two were seen together at a party Valerie had hosted. Her best friend? Doesn’t believe her. Her community? Blames Valerie for destroying “nice guy” Adam’s chance to go on a Mormon mission. Valerie? She is ridden with messages (often conflicting) that the rape is her fault – that she wanted it, that she didn’t fight hard enough, etc. Rape Girl begins with Valerie reporting the rape to the police and follows her journey through learning to live with what has happened to her.

Despite how short Rape Girl is, it did a wonderful job of being an easy read (in terms of comprehension – not subject matter) that really illustrated rape culture in action. In the afterword, the author reveals that she was once date raped, and so you are actually seeing this narrative unfold through the eye’s of a survivor whom I bet knows all to well about victim blaming. I’m working on an upcoming feminist/social justice feature and am planning a post on rape culture and victim blaming but if you need an intro to this topic and don’t want to read non-fiction, then I’d highly recommend Rape Girl! The novel shows the problems within the justice system, how communities problematically react to rape by often sheltering or making excuses for the rapist, and how victim blaming is perpetuated (e.x.: she wanted it, she was wearing sexy clothing, she didn’t say no, etc.) by friends, classmates, and even school officials. However, there is hope – a few characters help Valerie through her journey of learning how to live as a survivor and not a victim. She really showed a lot of courage and resiliency in how she handled her situation and she finds her own ways to stand up to rape culture, the victim blaming, and her rapist.

The story is definitely more plot based than character based. While I felt for Valerie, I couldn’t completely connect with her, or many of the other characters. I did LOVE Sandrina, a sympathetic (although, I’m not sure if that is the right word – she’s quite tough) Latina character who offers humour and friendship to Valerie at a time when 95% of the school’s population has turned against her. An unlikely friendship, I loved Sandrina’s attempts to protect Valerie. While Sandrina did seem a bit like the token person of  colour in the book, as the Latina sidekick, her motives for protecting Valerie were unveiled and her character was further developed in a scene where she invites Valerie to experience a piece of her world and culture.

In the end, this was a book I flew through and it caused me to feel a ton of different emotions. Rape Girl can help open up the readers eyes to a very important issue facing women all over the world, and causes us to look at an issue differently, and with empathy — and I think that is what books should do. I’d recommend this book to everyone, regardless of gender identity, and I think its readability would make it a good choice for reluctant readers. Also, this is the kind of book that requires thought and discussion afterwards, and would be a good teaching tool as well!

ETA: The author actually has a resource guide for Rape Girl on her website with tons of thoughtful questions for a therapeutic setting, book clubs or classroom discussions, as well as follow up writing activities.

rating 4

* I requested this book on NetGalley, and received an electronic version of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read Rape Girl? What did you think? Do you like short books? Do you have any other recommendations for stories that deal with sexual assault in a realistic manner?

10 Responses to “Review: Rape Girl by Alina Klein”

  1. Brenna

    I REALLY appreciated reading this one too, Rachelia. It was HARD but in a good way. It’s one I’d highly recommend to many other readers, who are looking for a challenging fiction read. I was in awe of how good it was for such a short book – usually that means something is sacrificed but I found it quite poignant. Not flawless, but still excellent.

    I’m so glad you reviewed this one and highlighted it. It doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

    Brenna from Esther’s Ever After

    • Rachelia

      I was quite surprised too at how much was packed into the 126 pages or so! I mean, I was still left wanting a bit, but I think it did a fairly good job of telling a story in so few pages.

  2. Kay

    This sounds like a great read for someone like me. I have a women and gender studies minor and I sometimes like to look at these types of issues in books. But I can’t say that outside of any of my classes or even in my classes that I ever read a fiction book about this topic. Thanks for reminding me about this book and your great review.

    • Rachelia

      I’m a Women & Gender Studies minor too!! There are some really good books (and of course, some really bad ones too) out there on rape/sexual assault. I’m working on a new feature where I highlight various feminist issues & use books to further educate, and sexual assault is definitely on the list! I haven’t read it YET, but Speak by Halse Anderson is the classic YA that deals with sexual assault.

      Thanks for stopping by & commenting :)

  3. ChristasBooks

    This sounds like an incredibly emotional read and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it before! I’m not sure I get the cover either but the armour thing makes sense…

    • Rachelia

      I definitely did tear up at parts, but it wasn’t a real tearjerker for me. However, it DID get my heart pumping with so.much.anger. I read real life stories about victim blaming, rape culture, and slut shaming every day on sites like Feministing and Jezebel but it still manages to incite rage, frustration, and tears (… which I take to be a good thing). I was a bit worried I may break my e-reader from squeezing it so hard as I read!

  4. Kelly

    This cover has always reminded me of the Paper Bag Princess, and if that was it’s intentions, it kind of makes sense. Val was smitten with Adam, until he showed his true colors, and then she set out on a journey of self-discovery – I think I’m reaching here, but that’s what’s in my head! I like your idea of it being armour though…

    Reading your review just stirred up all of the emotions I went through while reading Rape Girl originally, but mostly it resurfaced my anger and indignation for Val’s treatment – how dare those people try to condemn her for his vile actions!

    • Rachelia

      Oh, I like your interpretation of the cover as akin to the Paper Bag Princess (love that story!). I do like how the cover is very different than a lot that is out there in YA books. Sticking a girl in a pretty dress on the cover, etc. would NOT have been acceptable.

      Totally agree with you — this book should come with a warning: don’t read if rape culture makes you ROAR BECAUSE YOU ARE SO ANGRY and have a heart condition!

      Also, I’ve just realized that we have the same problems with books, and rate very similar. Now I should just go and read every book that has received 5 stars from you ;)

  5. Renae M.

    I definitely agree that Valerie wasn’t a character that I connected with, but boy oh boy did Klein still manage to pack a punch here. I was downright furious for a lot of this, and I couldn’t help but feel put out on Valerie’s behalf. And I think the fact that Klein was a rape victim herself really helped in crafting this story, since she was able to empathize with her character. I’ve read 3 YA novels that deal with rape (or those are the ones that come to mine). I thought 2 were brilliant and 1 was awful. The awful one was written by a woman who had never been raped, and the 2 I liked were written by survivors. I think that, perhaps, the nature of rape is such that it’s extremely difficult to write about it unless you’ve been in that position.

    Either way, though, I definitely agree with this review. What a powerful novel!

    • Rachelia

      Yep, this novel definitely brings out RAGEY feelings — see my comment to Christa about it needing a warning, haha.

      I don’t think it is necessary to have experienced sexual assault to write about it, but I don’t think a lot of the population, let alone writers, understand that a LOT (and sometimes ALL) of the ways the media and we as a society talk about sexual assault and rape are based on misconceptions, and contributes to rape culture. It goes so much beyond the act of sexual assault to issues of masculinity, sexuality, misogyny and sexism, privilege and power, etc. So writing about it isn’t easy (nor SHOULD it be — it’s a complex issue), but I think with the right research and an empathetic writer, it can be done and done well. But it can take a lot of unpacking and deconstruction of one’s own beliefs and societies messages to get there.

      Whew, didn’t mean to write a short novel myself there ;) Oh & I won’t even get started on rape as a plot point, to progress the development of a female character!

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