I don’t read a lot of ‘serious’ contemporary YA. Let’s face it, I’m not big on contemporary generally, because I need magic in my life, and the serious ones tend not to fulfil my escapist needs when it comes to books. However, I know they tackle important topics and tell stories that need to be told, which is why I requested this from NetGalley.
Anne Cassidy’s a familiar name whose books took up most of a shelf in the library where I used to work, but I’m not sure if I’ve actually read anything of hers before — certainly nothing’s coming to mind, although it’s possible I picked one up at some point.
I have to admit, I put off reading this for a while. Mainly, I feared it was going to be really depressing, but when I eventually got around to it I found it wasn’t as hardgoing as I’d expected. Although the subject matter — rape, if you weren’t aware — would likely be triggering to certain readers and it’s definitely more at the explicit end of implicit, it isn’t horrifically graphic.
More to the point, the focus of the book is less on the actual event and more on what happens in the lead up and immediate aftermath. I wouldn’t say there’s any comic relief, exactly, but the tone is light-hearted enough that it doesn’t feel like a dark, depressing slog. It also helps that the book is less than 200 pages long.
The story’s an interesting one because it isn’t told linearly, but jumps around a bit, from after everything has happened and then back to the events leading up to it and what actually happened, allowing the reader to do a lot of guessing as to what actually went down. Like, you know in We Need To Talk About Kevin, you know the whole time that something awful happened but you don’t know exactly what or how and then it’s revealed? It’s a bit like that, except you know slightly more, and you can begin to piece things together more specifically as you go through.
(Also, crap, now I’ve remembered We Need To Talk About Kevin, and I’m gonna have to take a moment to feel stuff, because damn, that book broke me. Sorry. Off topic. This is why I’m bad at reviewing; I get distracted so easily.)
I always enjoy trying to piece stories together, and I have a knack for guessing plot twists completely at random, so I quite enjoyed the way the narrative was put together and how it allowed for that kind of puzzling. It kept the story interesting: at heart, it’s a relatively simple plot, but the way it’s told gives it a bit more complexity.
It’s also refreshing to see a story like this that’s so… well, British. I read quite a lot of UK books now but I still notice and enjoy when things are familiar. I think it’s because when I was in school I came across way more characters who were in high school and navigating a world of SATs and APs that I barely understand despite having American friends, and now I find more and more books about sixth formers struggling with A-Levels and UCAS, and it adds a level of relatability. We’ve also got some interesting remarks about class in this book, with a clear divide between worlds.
I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite book I’ve read recently, and to some extent I wished there’d been more resolution — while the character arc resolves, there are elements of plot that don’t, and I’d have liked to see the bad guys get their just deserts. Sadly, that’s life, I know. But I’m a big fan of books resolving precisely because life doesn’t.
However, I think Cassidy manages to deal with a difficult topic in a sensitive way, without shying away from details, and that’s worth applauding.