It's a beautiful spring Sunday morning, and Kate Weston has the mother of all hangovers. Piecing together the events of a party so epic it earned its own hashtag, she is almost sure she didn't drive home, and even more sure she almost kissed her childhood friend Ben, now grown into a dreamboat of a basketball player. She gets her friend Rachel to delete the one incriminating photo of her wasted, rehydrates, and heads over to see Ben. Back at school on Monday, however, a gradually darkening mist of rumor begins to swirl. What happened after Kate left the party? Who was there? And is there proof? The attitudes and the reactions of the community in Kate's town mimic the trajectory of many familiar recent news stories: accusations fly, but instead of laying blame on the perpetrators, people turn their ire on the victim. Debut-novelist Hartzler (Rapture Practice, 2013) pulls no punches in his depiction of rape culture. A stirring, important read. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
PW Annex Reviews
Hartzler (Rapture Practice) moves from memoir to fiction with a novel that strongly echoes the Steubenville High School rape case in 2012. Teens at an Iowa high school are left reeling after a photo surfaces online showing a classmate drunk and topless during a party; soon, four students are arrested for sexually assaulting her. If characterizations sometimes take a backseat to the headline-grabbing plot, Hartzler captures the small-town vibe of a place so insulated that residents know the jersey numbers of the varsity basketball team but not the names of their legislators. Narrator Kate Weston questions the knee-jerk reactions of many of her peers, who slut-shame the girl and side with the accused athletes, while negotiating a new romance with Ben, a longtime childhood friend and member of the school's basketball team. Hartzler offers a thought-provoking look at victim blaming, the pressures of a win-at-all-costs athletic program, and the tendencies of schools and teams to circle the wagons and protect their own while hammering at the obligation of bystanders to speak the truth. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Sept.)
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School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 9 Up—Kate got wasted. Stacey got wasted. Kate left early. Stacey was raped, or so she claims. Kate can't remember much about the party, save from the growing flirtations with her childhood friend Ben. It's hard to focus on anything but their budding romance even when the whole school is sharing pictures and gossiping about Stacey's "behavior" at the party. But Kate is forced to come out of her love bubble once four of her classmates are charged with sexual assault and dissemination of child pornography. The whole town seems to comes to the boys defense—but Kate can't help but begin to push aside the town's shared preconceived notions and look closer. Devastatingly reminiscent of the 2012 Stuebenville High School rape case, Hartzler's first YA novel explores how a small, tight-knit community reacts when student athletes are accused of rape. The author has delivered an important, powerful, and engrossing read that gives readers a lot to consider. The book managed to resist a preachy feel while still asking tough questions about consent, the media, and how society puts victims on trial. Kate serves as a relatable and realistic reader surrogate as her emotions, questions, and conclusions progress throughout the story. VERDICT A gripping narrative that begs to be discussed.—Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ
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The party last Saturday night is a bit of a blur.
Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone's house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking Kate's keys and getting her home early, the feeling that maybe Ben is becoming more than just the guy she's known since they were kids.
But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills's shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn't have all the details, and begins to ask questions.
What really happened at the party after she left?
Who was still there?
What did they see?
When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate's classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can't be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question:
Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?
This story&;inspired by real events&;from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It's a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.