In a fictional analog of the 2012 Steubenville, Ohio, rape case, allegations of gang-rape at a high school party expose a small town's ugly truths.
Star basketballer John Doone's party inspires soccer player Kate and her childhood friend Ben to admit their long-held feelings for each other. The party also—if cheerleader Stacey Stallard is to be believed—saw several prominent members of the basketball team rape Stacey while she was incapacitated. The arrests of Doone and three other boys in the cafeteria spark both a media frenzy and a schoolwide rally to defend the alleged rapists. Ben stands up against the worst of his teammates' behavior at school, but as Kate's romance with him deepens, so does her need to know the truth. Kate, who listens more than she talks, makes an ideal narrator, observing her friends' dismissals of Stacey's story with increasing uncertainty. Even minor characters here are carefully conceived, and every bit of dialogue and social media activity is chillingly note-perfect. Classroom scenes and conversations offer frameworks for understanding what has happened and why, but the touch is so light and the narrative voice so strong that even a two-page passage breaking down the sexism in Grease! avoids seeming didactic.
A powerful tale of betrayal and a vital primer on rape culture. (Fiction. 14-18)