Sigh. I am going to have a hard time talking about this book…
So, Sam is an almost-graduated high school senior. A rumor gets started that Big Man on Campus, Carter, has raped Sam. Sam goes along with the rumor, at first because she doesn’t know what is going on, then because she is too scared to correct people’s assumptions, and finally because other girls who’ve been wronged by Carter convince her that he deserves to get knocked off his pedestal. The lie tears Sam apart.
Let me start out with what I liked about this book. The writing was good and somehow kept me absorbed enough in the story to tear through it. And as much as Sam grated on my nerves, she was a pretty believable teen. Also the romance in the book was good (yes, there was a romance in the same book about lies and rape).
What I didn’t like about this book was the fact that it starred a girl who lied about being raped out of cowardice/fear/spite. Also, Sam gets fake-raped while dressed provocatively and drinking alcohol. I don’t think the author intended to make light of rape in the least bit, but I couldn’t help but feel that this story could support a blame-the-victim mentality or the idea that women just make up stories of rape for attention/money/spite/jealousy/what-have-you. I know the lie had harsh consequences for Sam, but I didn’t really feel like the serious societal consequences of falsely accusing someone of rape or of falsely claiming to be raped were really expressed. Sam is troubled that she has destroyed Carter and her own life, but she never seems to be upset by the fact that she is taking credibility away from actual victims of rape! There were no legal or other disciplinary repercussions for Sam or for Carter, even though parents and teachers clearly knew about the rape rumor. I think rape is a sensitive subject and I just wish it had been dealt with differently.
I also was not a huge fan of Sam– even though, like I said, she was very much your typical angsty teen. She goes to the party she is not-raped at in order to flirt with Carter to make her best friend, Nick, jealous so he’ll ask her out. She has zero self-confidence. She is constantly talking about how she isn’t smart or pretty or anything good. She (at least initially) doesn’t stand up or speak for herself– not to her father, not to the kids at school, not to Carter and his buddies, and not to the girls that convince her to go along with the lie to get revenge on Carter. While she does learn a few things in the end and does grow in the process of dealing with the lie, I was so irritated with her stupid behavior that I did not celebrate in her learning from her mistakes. I was just relieved to be done with her.
And I know that I sort of missed the real point of the story– that lies eat you up and can ruin your life (which makes me think of Arthur Dimmesdale from The Scarlet Letter). I had such a hard time getting past the major issues I had with the book (the rape lie and the Sam character) that I couldn’t enjoy the Big Issue the author was trying to deal with. And Big Issues are my favorite part of reading YA!
I don’t want to dissuade anyone from reading this book because the writing was enjoyable and it does deal with some important Big Issues. I just would go into this one knowing that it deals with some stuff that could be irritating/angering depending on your own sensitivities. Also, I am pretty sure this would appeal to teens more than to adults, so keep that in mind too.