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


Linda McLaughlin said...

Sarah, thanks for the thoughtful review. I agree that a book like this one should be read by all students before going off to college. The emotional buffer seems like a really good idea and will make the book more readable. Love your fall color pictures! We don't get scenery like that here in So. California.

Stacy Nyikos said...

I'm keen to read this. Thanks for the review. And the wonderful pics. I miss apple picking. Can't do that in Oklahoma, but we went yearly in Indiana, where I grew up. Your photos brought back the unforgettable taste of apples fresh off the tree.

troutbirder said...

I'm sure I would like the structure, setting and emotional distance. Still, my thought train drifted back for a moment to the Japanese 1950 movie Rashomon. Different time, and place. Same plot?

Stacy said...

I'm intrigued. I will need to read this and perhaps pass it on to my older stepdaughter if it seems appropriate. She has a few years before college, but high school girls should be aware too.

Barrie said...

How incredibly sad and frightening that so many of us think a book such as Wrecked should be required reading for incoming freshman. And I'm with Stacy....high school probably isn't too young either. I think the three (removed) perspectives is brilliant. I will read this book. I think my 16 y.o. daughter should read it to? I wish she didn't need to learn about any of this. Because I wish this ugliness didn't exist. Thank you for reviewing, Sarah. And thank you for writing this book, Maria.

Troutbirder/Ray: I will have to check out Rashomon. Thanks.

Here's a link to the heartbreaking statement written by the Stanford victim to Brock Turner:

Sarah Laurence said...

Linda & Stacy Nyikos, thanks! The book also captures the feel of New England in autumn.

Troutbirder & Barrie, when Maria first told me about her idea for this book, I thought of Rashomon too! It was a Japanese short story before it was adapted to film, but Maria hadn’t heard of either one. Her novel has a different plot but shares some similar themes. I would like to reread that story or see the film.

Stacy W & Barrie, Maria’s book is labeled ages 14-18, and since naïve younger teens are more vulnerable to date rape, it is good to have a book like this written for teenagers. The content is disturbing but not sexually explicit or sensational. There is also a scene that clearly shows the danger of drinking punch at a party. I would recommend reading Wrecked along with your stepdaughter/daughter so that you can discuss it. Another good book on date rape is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is set in freshman year of high school. My personal opinion is that we protect our daughters better by educating them rather than hiding the dangers to shield their innocence.

Also, Barrie, thanks for the link to the Stanford victim’s eloquent letter, one the most powerful statements ever made on the horrific effects of date rape. Thanks too for hosting the book review club, so many good book recommendations!

Barrie said...

Hey Sarah! Yes, I read SPEAK years ago. It's still on my shelf. Great book. Tough subject. I plan to read Wrecked with Claire because of your review. And I's better to educate our daughters. Re the link and hosting: you're welcome and you're welcome. :)

Rose said...

Glad to have you back blogging, Sarah! This does sound like an excellent book for student discussion. I had hoped to participate in Book Club this month, but it's been a busy month. I think I spent half my summer reading "Hamilton":)

A Cuban In London said...

Great review and welcome back. I think it took me a little while to get into blogging mode after my recent sojourn in Cuba.

Greetings from London.

David Cranmer said...

I'm looking forward to reading your finished book, Sarah. Can't wait as they say.

Sarah Laurence said...

Barrie, looking forward to hearing your & Claire's reactions to WRECKED.

Rose, your garden looks lovely for your time offline. I'd love to see Hamilton the musical.

ACil, welcome back home from your other home! I look forward to hearing more about your time in Cuba.

David, thanks so much! This is just the comment I needed to read as I dive back into revision.

All, I won't be back to regular posting and blog visiting for a few more weeks. I'm crazy busy offline but for good reasons. More later!

thecuecard said...

The structure of Wrecked and the three perspectives make this one sound interesting and informative on this difficult topic. I hope overall it makes for a good forewarning for teens.

Bee said...

I really admire YA books that tackle topical issues - especially when they manage to do so within a storyline that is entertaining and thought-provoking. This sounds like a great read, Sarah, and I'm so glad that you've brought it to our attention.

Sarah Laurence said...

Cue, the book does a fine job of teaching a lesson without being too preachy, except in one chapter about a sexual consent assembly on campus. Wrecked does a great job with a challenging topic. Sorry to be so slow to reply - I've had trouble accessing wifi in Japan.

Bee, and thanks for reviewing Asking For It, another interesting YA novel on rape.