An erotically charged novel with disturbing abuse at its center.
Students who fail their high school studies are sent to Repeater’s College, where they are taught discipline and respect via a deeply visceral method: caning. Any violation of school rules and it’s off to the Head Office to receive either four or six of “the best,” hardest, most precisely placed strokes of the buttocks, administered with a cane. Teenage Claire almost made it through her time at Repeater’s without a caning, but when she’s caught with a cigarette, it’s off to the office. She expects pain and terror—not the sexual feelings that arise in anticipation of the beating and during the beating itself. What awakens in Claire is, according to author Building, a sick, corrupt version of sexuality that can never be divorced from abuse. Claire discovers that only in her sexual explorations with Mark, another student who has been recently beaten, can she relieve her emotional and physical feelings of desire and confusion. The reader begins to see the extent of the damage done to these students as their friendships and other relationships are poisoned by fear and manipulation. Building attempts to turn a horrifying practice and a chronicle of psychological harm into erotic fiction for adults, even going so far as to describe both the beatings and sexual acts in similarly graphic detail. The problem with this endeavor is that, despite Building’s many disclaimers, readers are placed in the position of the sadistic tormentors and encouraged to draw erotic pleasure from descriptions of abuse. Building tries to distinguish BDSM—in which consenting partners agree on specific levels of pain administration and acceptance—from the book’s definition of abuse, in which there is absolutely no consent and the victims are used for the perpetrator’s own sexual satisfaction. But an unsettling confusion emerges when Building tries to arouse readers with descriptions of acts—some of which are rather poorly written; “female sex parts” appears a number of times—that, though they might turn on the characters, shouldn’t titillate readers.
An ultimately unsuccessful attempt to eroticize abuse.