Ambivalence is the death knell of any book review. So many readers have loved Wrecked, and I feel ... cordial? politely pleasant? tolerant? Does Wrecked discuss rape in an important way? Yes. Does it do so with the backing of solid writing and characterization? No.
And there's the rub, I believe. Forthright discussions about sexual violence need to be had in our society; however, when presented in novel format, I expect some literary component as well. This is an example of concept over execution. Plus, for a book about sexual violence, respecting women, and believing the victim instead of shaming her, there sure was a lot of girl-on-girl hate.
In almost every way, the college life depicted in Wrecked is antithetical to my own experience. That made it completely fascinating to me. I didn't live on campus. I didn't do any sort of sports team stuff (dance was the closest I got). I didn't go to a private college and I have never attended a kegger. I am a proud introvert whose sole experience with these things comes via book.
However, when I was a junior, I worked as a "campus ambassador" for incoming freshmen. We helped run orientation, gave tours, and had The Talks with newbie college kids about drinking, drugs, the cops, and sex. None of the teens I mentored had a clue about the murky waters surrounding alcohol and consent.
Wrecked isn't just a story about campus rape; it's about memory and the totally ridiculous "justice" system in place to handle rape. The main character, Haley, is a soccer star whose latest concussion means that her career is over. While she mopes and drifts in and out of consciousness, she doesn't really notice that her roommate, Jenny, is having a major crisis. She and everyone else on campus call Jenny "Jenny Mouse" because she's so quiet and timid. A few days later, one of the campus rape hotline operators, a super-hot hippie save-the-world girl named Carrie, shows up in their dorm room and tells Haley that Jenny was raped at a party and has filed a suit against the criminal--who happens to be Carrie's ex-boyfriend's housemate. But nobody knows all this -- yet.
There are flashbacks to the truth as Jenny remembers it, and the truth changes. She can only testify as to what she remembers, and since she was heavily intoxicated at the time of her rape and blacked out several times, her story doesn't line up as perfectly as the "justice" system wants it to.
Meanwhile, Haley and Richard, Carrie's ex who has a penchant for making flip remarks about sexual assault, begin a relationship that's mostly cutsey flirting over calc homework or goin' apple pickin'. Woo. This aspect of the novel feels more developed than the actual discussion of rape and consent.
I really disliked that Carrie's whole characterization was "hot Evil Feminist." All the girls kept gushing about how gorgeous she was and how they simply couldn't compete with her, but in the same breath cut her down because of her attitude. Padian made Carrie into the stereotypical take-no-prisoners militant feminist who never forgives a mistake and who sees herself as the keeper of feminist truth on campus.
The power of this book is in its ending, since it's the most realistic (unfortunately) ending of most of the rape books out there. I only hope that after reading it, teens are not discouraged from reporting sexual assault to the authorities, thinking that it won't make a difference.
I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.