Before the sexual assault, Sandy was an upbeat, Shakespeare-loving teen with two close friends and ambitions of pursuing theater at Juilliard.
After, nothing makes sense. Sandy's friend Cassie, whose boyfriend Aaron perpetrated the assault, believes Aaron's story over Sandy's, and Sandy's other friend, Troy, sides with Cassie. Sandy's attempts to cope with the depression and anxiety brought on by the incident range from positive (joining new friend Shanika's taekwondo class) to destructive (stealing vodka from a local store to support a very quickly developed psychological dependency). Reactions to Sandy's situation also run a believable gamut: Cassie and Troy's rejection, Shanika's disclosure of information about another assault on Aaron's part, a police officer’s essential accusation that Sandy is lying, Sandy's parents’ display of support and concern. Sandy is written so as to be readable as either male or female, and while this device is somewhat effective, it also robs the story of some valuable specificity. Might not Cassie react differently to hearing that her boyfriend has assaulted a female friend versus a male friend? Wouldn't a male Sandy question or consider his sexual orientation after the incident differently than a female one? Despite some gaps in Sandy's internal experience, however, the book's portrayal is largely successful, and the note it hits at the end is hopeful without being unrealistic.
A careful treatment of a difficult topic. (Fiction. 14-18)