18 July, 2012
Review: Rape Girl by Alina Klein
As a young tween and teen I went to many of the parents-out-of-town parties that Valerie throws at the beginning of the book. I was never invited to the all ages block party she experiences later, although I throw them myself. The drunken party gone wrong is rooted in truth but still a cliche. Rape Girl neatly sidesteps this pitfall. In a sense, the party is the roller coaster ride and the rape occurs when the reader thinks Valerie has safely navigated the turns. Details are revealed in a bit of a haze. This makes sense for Valerie's state of mind. She is a pitch perfect teen, confrontational, reclusive, resentful. Because is the victim of a non-violent rape, she has trouble articulating her own feelings about what has happened to her. While she did not consent, does she have a prosecutable case? Is a failure to physically fight a type of consent? If Adam considers it consensual sex does she have the right to call it rape? These are things young date rape victims struggle with for years.
While Rape Girl gets the big details right, there are some smaller details that don't come together. For a young reader unfamiliar with Utah or Mormons, the setting will be lost. An adult reader will understand the importance of Adam becoming a missionary, but a tween or teen might not know what a religious mission is. Valerie's father is dead. His death seems irrelevant to their lives. Valerie doesn't reflect on him being gone in the context of what has happened to her. In a very strong scene Valerie's mother gives her a car, but afterward Valerie is primarily driven by her mother. Valerie's time was slightly off for me too. I am not sure, for example, that waterbeds are still prevalent. In my part of the country they were once commonplace but currently unheard of. She checks Facebook from her shared family computer instead of her iPod or smart phone. These are minor (and possibly regional) things but they gave Rape Girl a hybrid 90/10's feel. The small disconnects kept Rape Girl from being a truly exceptional book and placed it firmly in the good category.
For a young adult reader, none of these details may matter. I hope Rape Girl is adopted as a summer read for many girls. Beyond the rape itself Valerie's commitment to standing up for herself is a valuable example. The social price she pays (and the unexpected allies she finds) reach beyond her specific events. There is a universal appeal to Rape Girl that will allow young readers to easily identify with Valerie's struggle.