You Read What? Book Review: The Darkest Part of The Forest

Book: The Darkest Part of The Forest. Author: Holly Black. Release Date: January 13, 2015.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Type: Standalone. The Darkest Part of The Forest. Holly Black. January 13, 2015. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. yalit. young adult. ARC (Advance Reader’s/Reviewer’s Copy) given to me for an honest review.

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Holly Black is one of the few authors who can almost guarantee I’ll love any of her books. Her last young adult book, The Coldest Girl In Coldtown, was the first time that wasn’t the case so I was a bit hesitant when I started reading The Darkest Part of The Forest.

nicki minaj hesitant gif

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Sexual Assault in Lit Week: Perks of Being A Wallflower

This post is filled with spoilers. You’ve been warned.

The-Perks-of-Being-a-Wallflower-poster1

I actually saw the film adaptation of Perks of Being A Wallflower at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) months before I read it. I went in with zero idea what it was about outside of the incredibly vague film description in the program. By the end of the film, my cheeks were wet with tears and I was an emotional wreck. I rarely cry while watching a movie.

Perksofbeingwallflower1

I decided to read the original book version for this week because of the specific approach it has to sexual assault and abuse but before we delve into that, here’s a 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 he 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.

There are several instances of sexual assault and abuse that occur in the book and they all involve people that the victims/survivors know. Chbosky did a wonderful job at diversifying the different situations of assault and his decision to make them non-strangers is consistent with the statistics which state that you’re more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone you know than a stranger.

Told to us via Charlie’s journal, we get four instances of sexual assault.

  • The first takes place during a party at Charlie’s house years prior, thrown by his older brother, where a popular couple goes into Charlie’s room and have sex while he’s still in it. The girl continually says no before finally becoming silent through the whole thing. Not once did her boyfriend respect her wish. As Charlie tells Sam and Patrick this story, it dawns on him that the girl was raped and it took him that long to realize it because it wasn’t the cookie cutter image of how rape occurs. There was no dark alley and there wasn’t a hooded stranger. When Charlie asks Sam if they should tell someone, she says no and explains “all the things you have to go through to prove it, especially in high school when the boy and a girl are popular and still in love.”
  • The second instance involved Sam. She tells Charlie that her first kiss was with her dad’s friend when she was seven years old. This is brought up when Charlie states that he’s never kissed a girl before and Sam uses it to explain why she wants to kiss him. Not because she wants this to go beyond friendship but because she wants the first person he kisses to be someone who loves him.
  • The third instance involves his aunt Helen. “I will not say who. I will not say when. I will just say that my aunt Helen was molested. I hate that word. It was done by someone who was very close to her. I was not her dad. She finally told her dad. He didn’t believe her because of who it was. A friend of the family. That made it worse. My grandma never said anything either. And the man kept coming over for visits.

If you’re in a sexual relationship with someone, it is assumed that it isn’t rape if you’ve already had sex with that person. This isn’t true. Every sexual encounter needs informed consent even in marriages or committed relationships. As I stated in another post, sexual encounters with minors are seen as sexual assault because they aren’t in a position to give informed consent. One of the reasons why sexual assaults are the most under reported crimes is because of rape culture but what’s interesting about rape culture is that it also affects male victims of sexual assault.

Perks of Being a Wallflower: Boys and Sexual Assault

By the end of the book, you realize that Charlie’s aunt Helen molested him when he was child. She died in car crash when he was still little and Charlie was able to somehow block out that entire experience but we find out that Charlie’s anxieties and issues throughout the book were a result of that trauma. I rarely read about sexual assault involving male victims in lit but I do know that there are these beliefs that men can’t get raped or sexually assaulted and that isn’t true. Women are far more likely to get sexually assaulted but there is a percentage of men who do experience it too if the Maple Leaf Gardens sex scandal is any indication.

Sexually based violence is about violence and not about sex. It’s a way of exerting power over another individual so one’s sexual preference has nothing to do with the act itself which is one of the misconceptions of male sexual violence against other males (that the perpetrator is homosexual).

Victims of sexual assault come in all shapes and sizes which is why I wanted to have a post on this book. Please pick it up and give it a read. It’s wonderfully written and very insightful.

A. A. Omer

Sexual Assault in Lit Week: Where the Stars Still Shine

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Where the stars still shine
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Contemporary
Page count: 352
Source: Purchased a copy

Release Date: September 24 2013

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Thoughts on Where the Stars Still Shine

Yesterday I talked about Canary and the effects of date rape. Where the Stars Still Shine, however, tackles sexual assault in a much different way…

For more of this post, visit More Than Just Magic

Sexual Assault in Lit Week: Canary

Canary by Rachele Alpine

Canary

Publisher: Medallion Press
Genre: Contemporary
Page count: 400 pages
Source: Borrowed from library

Release Date: August 1 2013

Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete. But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

Thoughts on Canary

Canary tackles the issue of sexual assault by looking at date rape. I think it does this particularly well because it gives you the full picture of the events leading up to the assault as well as the aftermath.

You can read the rest at More Than Just Magic

You Read What? Book Review: Far From You

Author: Tess Sharpe

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

Date Published: April 8th, 2014

Format: Paperback/Advance Reader’s Copy

Source: From the publisher for an honest review

Synopsis:

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her?

Cover:

Far From You

The cover makes sense within the context of the book. The premise will draw people in rather than the cover in this case.

The Writing Score: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating:  4 out of 5

Review:

I’m going to make this a spoiler free review because there are reveals in here that I think are worth the first time read for those of you who haven’t read it yet. I really enjoyed this book despite having a weird start there for a minute. Weird in the sense that the book’s decision in how it wants to tell the story might have done more harm than good in the first half but then redeemed itself in the second. I’ll get more into that later.

I enjoyed this book because it wasn’t just about the mystery of Mina’s murder but also about Sophie’s relationships before and after it. Her relationship with Mina was so beautifully complicated and both girls were equally dynamic, different and three dimensional in how they were constructed which was as people rather than as ideals or tropes. I love the exploration of love, the forms it comes in and the decisions people make in the name of it. Addiction is referred to a lot throughout the book as not just the relationship between Sophie and drugs but also the entire culture of addiction which includes the harbouring of secrets and the ever so present and persistent need to want to indulge in the object (or person) you are addicted to. I don’t see addiction explored in Young Adult narratives all that much so this is one of the many reasons why this book will standout and follow you after you put it down. The secondary characters are solid and enhance/compliment the complexities explored and, overall, Sharpe just did a really great job with a premise that could have easily made for a mediocre novel.

I do have some issues with the book that were minor but were present enough to distract me while I read. Earlier, I talked about the book’s format as being more harmful to it in the first half but then redeeming it in the second. It jumps from the present in one chapter to the past in the immediate chapter following it which would be fine if the chapters that dealt with the present were much longer (in the first half of the book, I mean). I say this because it throws the pacing off when the chapter earlier was gaining momentum that would be choked out by the following chapter that dealt with the past (which were usually moments for character development). This was fine in the second half of the book when we were nearing the end but I would have liked the present chapters to have more room to breathe. It may not be an issue for other people but it did cause me to re-adjust for the constant change in pace which took me out of the book a little. Also, first few chapters were doing a lot of telling versus showing in it’s over explanations of feelings, thoughts, facts etc but it was mostly in an effort to disseminate basic information which, once it did, wasn’t an issue for the rest of the book.

Again, this was a fantastic book. Sharpe did a great job and I highly recommend it to everyone.

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.