Wednesday, September 7, 2016

WRECKED by Maria Padian

Hello again! I'm back to blogging while my new agent is reading my revised manuscript, which will return soon for a second round of revision. For now, I'm enjoying time free to read for fun. For the book review club I've chosen a soon-to-be-released novel set at a New England college. Wrecked by Maria Padian eerily echoes the Brock Turner sexual assault case; it should be required reading for college freshman. This timely young adult novel would crossover well to adult readers too.

Wrecked investigates an alleged date rape from three perspectives: the roommate of the victim, the housemate of the accused, and an omniscient narration on the night of the attack. The reader must piece together the clues and draw his/her own conclusion about what really happened. The conflicting versions of the truth becomes the central theme of this engaging book.

Although Wrecked doesn't sugarcoat rape, this book is easier to read than others because the victim isn't the narrator. Since we hear her story second hand, there is an emotional buffer. This genius narrative structure recreates the way most of us will experience rape: one step removed. How would you respond if the victim or the suspect asked for your support? What if you didn't really know or even like them? Our two narrators are reluctant to get involved but want to do the right thing. The sweet romance that develops between the roommate and the housemate models a consensual relationship in sharp contrast to the date rape case under review by the campus administration.

Wrecked makes the reader think and ask questions. There is no obvious message, beyond a campus program on consent, which is played for laughs. The sexaul assault investigation is shown in all its murky confusion with lying witnesses, inebriated confusion, and unreliable evidence. Conviction may not always be feasible so how do you achieve justice?

Wrecked is educational, but it's entertaining too. The college campus setting is fun and true to life. There are housemates from hell, an apple picking scene, raging parties, social media mayhem, and an overwhelming number of extracurriculars on top of classwork. All the characters are well developed and humanly flawed. Both earthy feminists and boozy lax bros are satirized for balance. The mystery of what really happened makes the book a page-turner. Good writing takes a back seat to the story, never overpowering the narrative.

The author has clearly done extensive legal research and also captures the spirit of life on a New England campus with literary finesse. This book would be an excellent tool for getting students to talk about consent, boundaries, and sexual assault. Wrecked is one of the best YA novels I've read about rape. I would love to see more YA novels set at college. I strongly recommend Wrecked to teens and to adults.

My reviews of other YA novels by Maria Padian:
Out of Nowhere
Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best
Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress

Reviewer's Disclosure: author Maria Padian is a friend and we discussed this book on dog walks while she was writing it. Upon my request, Algonquin Young Readers (her publisher) sent me a galley to review. The book will be published on October 4, 2016 in hardcover and ebook. Photos are of Maine in October, where the author and I both live. Our dog walking trail crosses that bridge. Wrecked is set at a fictional college somewhere in New England.

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@Barrie Summy