A richly textured and absorbing fictional exploration of campus rape culture and its many victims.

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INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE

From the Grace McDonald series , Vol. 3

In this third installment of a series, a seasoned therapist gets involved in a college rape case.

Kraus (All God’s Children, 2014, etc.) takes her main character, an experienced therapist and mediator who’s worked for over 30 years in the small town of Kaw Valley, into the world of college “hookup culture” and the murky complications of campus rape allegations. Grace McDonald has been taking referrals from the Kaw Valley Rape Crisis Center. Her good friend Kaw Valley policewoman Patsy Tsosie is working a case concerning a young woman named Hannah, who claims she was raped at a party by a fraternity brother called Logan Whiteman. From Patsy, Grace learns the familiar barrage of grim statistics: 88 percent of women raped on campus don’t report it; 16 percent of college women will be sexually assaulted in some way; 26 percent of reports lead to an arrest; and only 20 percent of those result in prosecution (as the protagonist mordantly observes, “Roulette has better odds”). Grace’s latest referral, a young woman named Shelby Stewart, is haunted by her encounter with business major Hunter Payne, who secretly drugs women and pleasures himself—and takes copious photographs—while they’re unconscious. But whereas Hunter is guilty in a more straightforward sense, Logan’s case seems more complicated. As he doggedly insists, what happened between him and Hannah wasn’t rape, it was just a “hookup.” As one character exasperatedly asks, “Why use tax dollars to pay for DNA tests when the guy conceded at the first damn interview that, ‘Yeah, sure, we had sex. So what?’ ” In the face of institutional inertia and indifference, Grace and Hannah go outside the law in order to pursue justice. As in the previous volumes of the series, this novel is a complex, multifaceted, and refreshingly mature fictional examination of all sides of a social issue, in this case the complex dynamics of campus sexual assault. As Patsy observes at one point, “Juries do not convict clean-cut, well-mannered, white-boys for rape when there are no witnesses, no broken bones, no blood, no abduction, no serious signs of resistance or struggle.” Kraus does a scrupulous and realistic job of fleshing out all of her characters, including (although to a lesser extent) the tale’s villains, Hunter and Logan. And the story is at its most moving when dramatizing the complicated workings of shame, outrage, and insecurity that victims like Hannah feel. When walking around at school after her encounter with Logan, she repeats to herself: “I am safe. I’m in the middle of the campus in broad daylight. No one can hurt me.” But it doesn’t seem to help. The obtuseness of campus authorities, the bragging of Logan’s fellow frat dudes, and the slow seep of social shame (“Within twenty-four hours, Hannah was being treated as if she had cancer”) are conveyed with a smart refusal to rely on easy simplifications. Even the book’s most unlikely plot development, Hannah’s elaborate plan to seek “fantasy payback” against Logan, features enough believable details to convince readers—and make them wonder how many such schemes have actually happened.

A richly textured and absorbing fictional exploration of campus rape culture and its many victims.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997547-6-4

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Flint Hills Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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