Book Review: Rape Girl by Alina Klein

Title: Rape Girl

Author: Alina Klein

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Genre: Contemporary, Young-Adult, Coming-Of-Age

Synopsis: “Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.

But not the rape girl.

That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it.

Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers.

The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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A beautifully written story of survival during the aftermath of an event that can ruin a young person’s life forever.

Rape Girl was certainly a very quick read, but it resonated a strong message to all victims of rape: “Hold your head high even if you feel like your world is crashing down around you.” The story follows Valerie, a 16-year-old teenager that threw a party and got drunk while her mum was out of town. During the night, she was witnessed by many of her peers to willingly walk into a room to spend some time alone with her crush, Adam. What they didn’t witness was her throwing up all over his shoes and passing out, only to wake up the next day with a major hangover. Falling asleep on the couch once again, she wakes up to Adam having taken off most of her clothing and telling her he was back to pick up where they had left off the night before. Valerie tells him “no”, but we obviously know what happens next.

The book focuses mainly on the present, while we do get a glimpse into prior events during the beginning of the story. We go through the journey of being a victim of rape with Valerie, and watch as her world falls down around her. But we also see her pick herself up again. We see many victims of rape blaming themselves for what happened, and it’s no different with Valerie. She is fighting a battle within herself as well as with Adam. She experiences the loss of reputation for telling a truth no one believes, and watches as her ‘best friend’ leaves her, rather than staying loyal. Such is the world of high school.

I really, really enjoyed watching Valerie pick herself up through this mess of an event – even when her lawyers drop her case and charges against Adam. I understand the message behind Valerie’s story is not able winning against the raper, but to speak up and piecing your life together even when everything goes to crap. Reporting the incident is so important to turning your life around, because you realise who the supportive people in your life are. It is the first step to being able to move on from the incident.

I really loved this story and its messages, but what I would have liked to see was maybe an epilogue to really conclude Valerie’s story. I know her talk with Adam was supposed to be the point where she turns her life around, but it fell a little flat for me. But irregardless, this was a wonderful read, written really well by Klein. It’s a wonderful contemporary story I would recommend to everyone.

THANKS TO: Namelos for providing an electronic copy of the book on netgalley for me to read and review honestly.

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Book Review: Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

Title: Being Henry David

Author: Cal Armistead

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Shelf: Read-in-2013, Young-Adult, Contemporary, 4.5-out-of-5, Released-in-2013, Debut Author, DAC Challenge, Kindle-eBook, Netgalley-Read

Publication Date: 1 March 2013 by Albert Whitman & Company

Synopsis: “Seventeen-year-old “Hank” has found himself at Penn Station in New York City with no memory of anything –who he is, where he came from, why he’s running away. His only possession is a worn copy of Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. And so he becomes Henry David-or “Hank” and takes first to the streets, and then to the only destination he can think of–Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. Cal Armistead’s remarkable debut novel is about a teen in search of himself. Hank begins to piece together recollections from his past. The only way Hank can discover his present is to face up to the realities of his grievous memories. He must come to terms with the tragedy of his past, to stop running, and to find his way home.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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Being Henry David is the first debut of 2013 I’ve picked up this year, and what a great start to the year! I’m so glad I picked this to start off the year because it was just such a moving and wonderfully written story. It follows a seventeen-year-old boy who wakes up at Penn Station in New York with retrograde amnesia. Armed with only a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau and a little bit of cash, he makes his way to Concord, Massachusetts, where Thoreau lived for two years and wrote Walden. As the book is his only clue of his past prior to waking up, he believes it’s the obvious place to go to.

Along the way, ‘Hank’ meets some important people that help him realise that the only way he can move on and remember his past is to face it head-on. Armistead presents us with snippets of Hanks’ past throughout the story – enough to keep it mysterious and intriguing without overwhelming the reader. Hank is a character that digs a spot in our heart and refuses to move. You become invested in him – in his past, present and future. Armistead has created a character so touching that you just can’t help but root for him.

I found the little snippets of Walden being thrown in fit perfectly with the voice and pace of the overall story. It’s a quick introduction to one of America’s great thinkers, and helps Hank come to terms with who he is. It really becomes his lifeline as his journey forward and backward is aided by this book. The people he meet in Concord is a result of this book being a clue for him to be there in the first place. His rediscovery of his past is a result of Walden. I think Armistead did a wonderful job incorporating these two stories about the intricacies of survival and life together.

What I really wanted to see more of was the development of the side characters. I wish we got to see more of Jack and Ness, even though I realise they’re side characters. And I really wished there was a scene where we saw Hank reunited with Rosie – but irregardless, the ending moved me to tears.

Being Henry David was such an emotional ride, but I loved every minute of it. If there’s one contemporary young adult fiction you’re going to read this year, Cal Armistead’s book is the one you need to invest in.

I think the song ‘Home’ by Phillip Phillips fits wonderfully with Being Henry David. The lyrics, the filmclip and even the singer just reminds me of this story! What do you think?

THANKS TO: Albert Whitman & Company for providing an electronic ARC to review honestly.

Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Shelf: Read-in-2012, Young-Adult, Contemporary, 3-out-of-5, Released-in-2010, Kindle-eBook

Synopsis: “Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. 

Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix-tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. 

But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.” (Taken from Goodreads)

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I’m not sure I really understand the hype surrounding this story. Charlie was a character that I came to dislike throughout the book with his incessant whinging and crying. I get it, Charlie is meant to be autistic … but it got to a point where his character became so unbearable that I had to put down my kindle for a few hours so I wouldn’t throw it across the room.

While I’m not saying the whole book was horrible (I did give it three stars), the main character was what made my rating go down. Yes, I’m aware that I’m in the minority of people who do not love and worship this book like it’s the most amazing piece of literature on earth that defines our generation – and I don’t even care. While I understand that Chbosky created Charlie as a character that we’re meant to root for and relate ourselves to – I found it increasingly hard to because I found him to be a very 2D character.

For a 16-year-old boy, he sure didn’t act like it. [What 16-year-old boy does not know about masturbation. Did he just tune out completely during sex-education class every time? Please.] He was extremely emotionally unstable, and the reason was not explained until the very last part of the book. It just felt forced and unbelievable, like Chbosky realised at the last minute that Charlie’s actions needed to actually be explained.

BUT as I mentioned before, this book was not all bad. I did in fact enjoy it, even though its protagonist marred the reading experience. I did love his friendships with Sam and Patrick. (Side note: Did anyone realise that Charlie had said that Patrick’s nickname was ‘Nothing’ – except apart from saying it once or twice, no one ever brings up that name again? What was the point in introducing that name if it’s never going to be used?) What I did like about Charlie was how supportive of a friend he is. This redeeming quality made me like him a little better. I really like it when friendships just click together, and that happened in this book. (Apart from the times when Charlie kept whinging about his love for Sam.)

While not all bad, I was eventually let down by this book. I guess I was pulled in by the hype surrounding the movie, and went in with really high expectations. While not my favourite book of 2012, I did enjoy it overall (when Charlie was continuously whinging).

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The movie trailer on the other hand, makes Charlie seem completely different to his character in the book. I think I’ll give the movie a try.