Thursday, October 6, 2016

ARC Review: Wrecked

Title: Wrecked
Author: Maria Padian
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Format: ARC*

“Everyone on campus has a different version of what happened that night.

Haley saw Jenny return from the party, shell-shocked.

Richard heard Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with.

When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Now conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible--especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.

Wrecked offers a kaleidoscopic account of a sexual assault on a college campus. It will leave you thinking about how memory, identity, and who sits in judgment shape what we all decide to believe about the truth.”

Let me begin by saying that Wrecked is probably one of the most important books I’ve read this year. It covers an unfortunately timely topic – rape on college campuses. Both my undergraduate and graduate universities have difficult histories with sexual assault, and often in Oxford’s case, those events have been brought into the glaring light of the public eye. The rape that takes place at fictional MacCallum College doesn’t end up in a very public trial with media coverage, but that’s part of what makes it is important.

Wrecked does a brutally honest job of portraying what occurs when a student accuses another of rape at most American universities. Unless the accuser goes to the police, the allegations are handled by the university as a potential violation of student conduct or some similar policy. There is no arrest, no real protection for either party, and the accuser and accused remain at the same (sometimes very small) campus for the duration of the investigation. It is no secret that these investigations, just like our current legal system, are often cruelly unfair to the accuser, and very rarely actually end with a guilty verdict. Often, the accused can simply decide to withdraw from the university and then go on to live his or her life with few to no repercussions. This is the system that Maria Padian exposes in Wrecked.

Wrecked is unique for many reasons, including the fact that it’s told from the dual narratives of Haley, Jenny’s roommate, and Richard, Jordan’s friend. Haley and Richard are one step removed from the situation, and provide two very different perspectives. This allows the reader to see the situation from the outside, and provides a better appreciation for how difficult it is to punish rapists, and how easily doubt and the self-interest of others undermine investigations. Classmates are worried about getting in trouble for underage drinking, memories are unclear from getting wasted, and more often than not, an appropriate resolution is never reached.

I enjoyed that Padian also confronts rape culture in smaller ways, having characters frankly discuss consent and fight back against victim blaming. Hayley and Richard have an intense argument over his flippant use of the word rape, and Richard is continually forced to check his own privilege and internalized sexism throughout the book.

And yet, I can’t say that I honestly enjoyed this book. Is it important? Yes, incredibly so. But did I enjoy reading Wrecked; did I come to care for these characters? No, not really. I can’t explain the disparity between my appreciation for this book and my simultaneous lack of enjoyment. All of the individual pieces were perfect, yet the entire package fell a bit flat.

That being said, Wrecked is one of the most realistic portrayals of sexual assault in college that I’ve ever come across. These characters were in my classes, I went to that frat party, and Richard one of my male friends who had to be called out on their sexism. I knew too many Jordans and Exleys, but I didn’t know any Jennys. Why? Because they knew that all-too often at small liberal arts schools like ours, like MacCallum, it’s really the victim who’s put on trial. So they kept quiet.

Please, read this book. Get angry and demand change. Demand that universities protect their victims, not their rapists. Stop asking how much a girl had to drink and what a boy’s athletic record is. My own alma maters are finally instituting sexual assault policies and procedures that are actually intended to protect the victim and provide some semblance of justice. We are still so far from where we need to be, but Wrecked helps us take a step in that direction.

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️  stars

*I received this ARC from the publisher at BEA in exchange for a free & honest review.

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