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Wrecked by Maria Padian

Wrecked by Maria Padian
Pub. Date: October 4, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Algonquin!)
Summary: 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.
Genre: YA, Contemporary

After receiving her third concussion Haley’s soccer career is all but guaranteed to be over. Sent back to her dorm with orders to drink lots of water and get plenty of rest, she immediately falls into a deep sleep, only waking the next afternoon when her roommate walks in. Jenny has always been quiet and withdrawn, a premed student more likely to be holed up in the lab than at a party…but Haley notices something off. Jenny’s even more withdrawn than usual and eventually the secret is out: Jenny was raped.

Hesitant to go any further with the accusations, but desperately seeking a sense of peace, Jenny makes a formal statement about Jordan, calling on Haley to act as her representative. Jordan has his own rep, Richard, and as Richard and Haley take their relationship beyond math tutoring, neither knows the other has been sworn to secrecy until it’s too late.

Rape and sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, are all over the media these days. In that regard, Wrecked is an extremely timely and topical book. However, Padian went a step further with her novel by having it be told through the perspective of outsiders. Haley is Jenny’s roommate, Richard lives in the same Hall as Jordan, but neither were at the party the night of the assault. In fact, no one saw Jenny and Jordan together, making Wrecked a very he said/she said case and showing just how crucial facts and details and testimony can be.

Initially I was absurdly quick to judge: he did it! he’s guilty! lock him away! but as the novel wore on, I realized the truth wasn’t as clear as I had first assumed. Interspersed between Haley’s and Richard’s chapters are flashbacks to what really took place that night and at times I was so angry and full of sadness. The college has a twitter-like app called The Board where people can post random thoughts and other can comment. It wasn’t long after word got out about Jenny’s rape that horrible, hateful posts started appearing and the threatening messages began. My heart went out to this shy girl who just wanted to see justice served and to feel safe again.

While Wrecked got SO MUCH right, there were a few points I couldn’t shake. Richard is supposed to be the love interest, but I never got that swoony vibe from him. He’s a super hot math tutor…who proudly proclaims he’s not PC and has no issue with casually throwing around the word rape. I was also a little uneasy about a romance storyline being in a novel about sexual assault. In a way it does make the novel that much more realistic – Haley and Richard were merely bystanders, they have their own lives apart from the investigation – but it still made me uncomfortable. There’s also a character named Carrie who’s big on veganism and going green. At one point she’s described as a “militant feminist” and I never got a feel for whether or not I was supposed to be on her side. Her characterization flip-flops as the book calls for it.

Ultimately Wrecked is an important book that adds to the conversation of what is and isn’t consent. I thought Padian’s decision to use narrators who weren’t directly involved was a brilliant move and puts forth a perspective not often seen in novels on the subject. The addition of a romance plot left me feeling more than a little uncomfortable and, while I thought the ending was very realistic, I can’t say the same will hold true for other readers.

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