I review Wrecked by Maria Padian.
Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock will know of the shocking statistics of rape and sexual assault happening on university campuses. Things like “Party Culture” and heavy drinking have been blamed for these assaults, rather than the rapists themselves. Brock Turner has become a household name, forever tied to the reputation of a rapist who got a shockingly lenient sentence for assaulting an unconscious woman.
According to RAINN:
11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
Oh, and it was found that:
As many as one in four women experience sexual assault at college, though the vast majority never report it.
Clearly, there’s not only a huge problem with people raping others, but also with the way rape is perceived, particularly among young Americans. Through various discussions online about such cases, I’ve come across people who don’t believe in the inability to consent due to unconsciousness or a high level of alcohol, people who believe women are “asking for it” when they wear revealing clothing and drink too much, people who believe Brock Turner received a fair sentence. All of which turns me into a furious feminist.
So when Wrecked turned up on NetGalley, I couldn’t click the request button fast enough.
Everyone on campus has a different version of what happened that night.
Haley saw Jenny return from the party, shell-shocked.
Richard heard Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with.
When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Haley and Richard are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Now conflicting versions of the story may make bringing the truth to light nearly impossible–especially when reputations, relationships, and whole futures are riding on the verdict.
Wrecked offers a kaleidoscopic account of a sexual assault on a college campus. It will leave you thinking about how memory, identity, and who sits in judgment shape what we all decide to believe about the truth.
I’ve read many books that deal with rape and rape culture, victim-blaming and surviving sexual abuse, but Wrecked stands apart from the others, because it isn’t narrated by the victim or the perpetrator. Instead, it is narrated by those around them – friends, roommates – which gives us a unique perspective.
None of our narrators know exactly what happened that night, and the narrative is interspersed with snippets from the night it happened, so the reader is left wondering. Padian’s writing is simple, yet effective. The characters are rich, real, and engrossing. The story is familiar, upsetting. Amongst the rape case, there is a blossoming romance between Haley and Richard, where the traditional gender stereotypes have been reversed.
I don’t want to give the story away, but I do want to talk about why such a story is necessary. Wrecked has come at a time where rape culture is (or should be) on everyone’s minds. More women are standing up and saying no, this is not okay. When I was growing up, we were given the “no means no” narrative. Now, we’re told about enthusiastic consent. We’re told that we have the right to stop participating in a sexual act at any time. We’re told that if we’re drunk or unconscious, if we don’t have the language to say no, then we can’t say yes either. But in the same breath, we’re shown that colleges, the police, courtrooms don’t take us seriously. We’re not believed. And, even when a rapist is convicted, they don’t receive a decent punishment. We should not expect justice.
The way American colleges deal with rape cases appalls me. To me, it’s a crime, so it’s a matter for the police and the criminal justice system, if the victim so wishes. I can’t understand the reasoning behind allowing a person or body, separate from the police, judge such a situation, and distribute justice. Spoilers aside, there is no justice in Wrecked, not to my mind anyway, and this is something that must be addressed in real life.
Wrecked should be on required reading lists for high/secondary schools across the world. It should be used to open up conversations about consent, support, justice. Stories like this should be repeated over and over again, the lessons drummed into society, until there are no more stories like it.
(I suppose this isn’t much of a book review, but I can’t really apologise for the way I’ve approached this one. The themes and lessons in Wrecked were so real, so important, that I couldn’t help but notice, and repeat.)