Title: Rape Girl Published: September 2012
Author: Alina Klein
Format & Source: eBook (Netgalley)
Genre(s): YA, contemporary
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.
Title: Rape Girl
Published: September 2012
— 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.
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.
* I requested this book on NetGalley, and received an electronic version of the book in exchange for an honest review.