by Maria Padian
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Obtained Via: I received an electronic advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
Everyone has heard a different version of what happened that night at MacCallum College. Haley was already in bed when her roommate, Jenny, arrived home shell-shocked from the wild Conundrum House party. Richard heard his housemate Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with. When Jenny formally accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard find themselves pushed onto opposite sides of the school’s investigation. But conflicting interests fueling conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible–especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.
Note: this book and thus, this review, deal with themes of sexual assault.
I will start off this review by saying I liked this book, but I am deeply conflicted about a few key points. Wrecked starts with Haley alone in her dorm, quite upset, as she’s just received some bad news. After yet another concussion, her soccer career is probably over earlier than plan, so she doesn’t notice anything too weird about when her roommate comes back. Over the next few weeks, it comes out that Jenny has been the victim of a sexual assault, and she plans on pursuing disciplinary, but not criminal, action.
Wrecked isn’t the only YA book to take place on a college campus, but it’s still pretty rare to see. I have mixed feelings about that in general, since often it seems those characters should really be in the NA range except that NA has developed into such a narrow, romance-only genre. Conflicted feelings on that aside, Wrecked benefits from being YA. This is an issue, and Wrecked felt incredibly true-to-life about the portrayal of campus sexual assault, which often has some added barriers to justice in the name of bureaucracy.
Wrecked revolves around a handful of characters, but the main ones are Haley and Richard. Haley, as Jenny’s roommate, becomes a bit of a confidante for Jenny. Richard is a housemate of the boy Jenny who raped Jenny, and Haley and Richard become friends-and-maybe-something-more unknowingly. Both of them have to sort through what happened that night and what it means for everyone involved.
The good is that both Richard and Haley’s POVs are well done and engaging. Wrecked isn’t a quick or fast-paced read, but I read it in only a few sittings, despite the harsh subject matter. In between chapters are short snippets of the party that Jenny attended, supposedly showing what happened that night, which felt unnecessary. Part of Wrecked is that sexual assault is indeed traumatic, and while Jenny is telling the truth, her memory is fuzzy on some things(which isn’t surprisingly, since she was drunk — the whole point is that doesn’t negate her lack of stated consent), so having those scenes felt like they were achieving the opposite effect.
Which brings me to one of the major aspects of the book that left me feeling conflicted: Richard. So, Richard is a self-proclaimed good guy. And. . . it’s not that he’s a bad guy. But his character gets very tiring, very quickly. In our first introduction to Richard, he wakes up with his at-the-time-friends-with-benefits. He makes a joke about her raping him the night before because she was so domineering, which she rightly doesn’t take kindly too. They break up, and not long after we learn that she ends up being one of Jenny’s peer counselors when Jenny called the campus’ hotline.
Richard ends up walking the fine line between believing Jenny and trying to support his housemate and believe that anything that happened was consensual. And to Haley, Richard *is* a nice guy. He honestly wrestles with these questions and gives them due thought . . . . but only because he is constantly being educated by the female characters on such issues, which is where my conflicting feelings come in. Being the Teacher for men is a role that many, many women often find themselves in, and it’s tiring. I didn’t know it would be as tiring to read about, and it wore on me personally. Is it realistic? Yes. Nobody has that type of self-awareness naturally, and I think that step of learning IS important. I think that Richard is a great character, writing-wise, because of that. But he’s also a bit of a burden.
All in all, Wrecked was a thoughtful look at campus sexual assault. It wasn’t perfect and there were a few major issues, but it’s also an important book. I’m glad there seems to be more YA books showing a variety of survivor experiences(much like Exit, Pursued by a Bear which came out earlier this year, Wrecked isn’t something I’ve seen in YA before). I also feel this book would pair really well with What We Saw. 4/5 cupcakes.