Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Easy

Tammara Webber
A girl who believes trust can be misplaced, promises are made to be broken, and loyalty is an illusion. A boy who believes truth is relative, lies can mask unbearable pain, and guilt is eternal. Will what they find in each other validate their conclusions, or disprove them all?

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she's single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.
Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex's frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night--but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.
When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he's hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.
(Cover and Description from Author's Website.  Source.)
Publisher: Tammara Webber
Publication Date: May 25, 2012
Kat's Review

I really liked this book.  I feel like I need to get that out there, right off the top.  It deals with many issues, but front and centre is the issue of sexual assault, and how it can affect those who survive it.  The rape aspect is not the only issue the book tackles, but it certainly informs the decisions and behaviour of the main character, and the way she moves in her world after her  assault.  The author writes about it in such a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner that it could bring up painful memories for anyone who has experienced something similar in their lives, but I think that it's a better approach than the glossing over it so often receives in fiction.  I also really respect the fact that the author made the attacker a friend, someone the victim was familiar with and trusted, since so often this is the case.  The stranger who jumps out of the bushes does happen, but so often it's the friend, the boyfriend, the colleague who are the perpetrators.

The main character, Jacqueline, is assaulted while leaving a party, but she is rescued by someone who happens to be in the right place at the right time.  As she struggles to deal with the assault, recover from her break-up with her boyfriend and salvage her grade in her economics class, she reassess what is important in her life.  Jacqueline makes a connection with her econ tutor online, as well as with Lucas, the guy who stopped her attacker.  As she gets closer to Lucas, she realizes that he is hiding secrets of his own, and she wonders if she'll ever really be let in.  At the same time, Jacqueline finds herself face to face with her attacker, a fellow student and former friend, on a regular basis.  Rather than allowing the attempted rape to fade into the background as a minor plot point that served to bring Lucas into Jacqueline's life, the author keeps the issue front and centre, much as it would be in real life.

Whenever I pick up a book from an author I know nothing about I always skim through some reviews to see what others are saying.  This time was no different, and although I read mostly positive reviews, I came across some negative ones too.  Much of the negativity was reacting to either the subject matter itself, arguing that sexual assault has no place in a book aimed at teens or those in their early twenties, or that the victim's reaction to the assault was unrealistic, since she then pursued a romantic relationship with someone else.  I disagree with both of those assessments. 

Sexual assault, when handled well, certainly has a place in fiction aimed at teens or those in their twenties.  It is a reality for so many young people, and there are so few books aimed at that target audience that deal with it in a realistic and sensitive manner.  Pretending that uncomfortable or terrible things don't happen to young people does them a disservice.  One of the best responses I've read on this subject from an author is the piece written by Cassandra Clare, in response to some of the backlash to a scene in one of her novels.  It can be found HERE.

Regarding the argument that the main character in the story reacted inappropriately or unrealistically by pursuing a romantic relationship with someone after having been sexually assaulted, I couldn't disagree more.  The notion that there actually is a correct way for someone to react to rape is deeply flawed, putting pressure on victims to prove their innocence or to show how much they've been hurt in a manner that others decide is correct.  I sat in a courtroom once and listened to a judge tell someone very close to me that because she hadn't screamed (even though no one else was around), or told anyone for two weeks, that it was difficult to believe that she had been raped.  Many victims don't tell for years.  That the character in this novel starts a physical, romantic relationship soon after her assault in no way lessens the reality of that assault.  Everyone reacts differently, and those reactions shouldn't be used as an assessment of whether the assault affected the victim or not.

It's not a perfect book.  The political names of  the characters with the Jackie reference is a bit odd, but I forgot about it rather quickly once into the story.  There are times when the message about rape is obvious, rather than blending into the narrative.  It can also be argued that the love interest, Lucas, is almost too perfect and that his personal story is too coincidental to occur in real life.  Sure, I can agree with that. It's still a book that I think would be useful in the hands of many young men and women, with a powerful message. 

Rating: A Good Read

This is a really good book, and it makes me want to read more by this author.  The message is strong, certainly, but the book is more than the message.  There are interesting characters, a well paced plot and a great romance.  I bought this book, and it was worth the money.

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