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Snakes Don’t Always Look Like Snakes

In this novel by Maria Padian, attempts to punish a college rapist leave his victim Wrecked.

Snakes Don’t Always Look Like Snakes

BOOK REPORT for Wrecked by Maria Padian

Cover Story: While You Were Out
Drinking Buddy: It's Okay Not to Drink
Testosterone/Estrogen Level: Intense
Talky Talk: Yes Means Yes
Bonus Factor: Consent
Bromance Status: Counselor

Cover Story: While You Were Out

Yes, the ubiquitous college dry erase board plays a role in the story. It kind of makes for a non-cover cover, though. And are we confused as to whether or not this is a novel?

The Deal:

We all know the story. A college party. Lots of people. Lots of drinking. And somewhere, a guy is bragging to his friend about the hot freshman chick he scored with.

Across campus, that same girl is crying her eyes out, remembering how she passed out in some guy's room and woke up with her panties around her ankles.

Meanwhile, athletic Haley has been kicked off the school soccer team after receiving a bad concussion, incurring the wrath of her helicopter parents. Handsome math nerd Rich has just been dumped by his feminist girlfriend.

Haley and Rich meet. There's a bit of a spark. Potential for something neat.

And then Haley's roommate, Jenny, drops a bombshell. She was raped after a party by someone from Rich's residence house. She's taking this guy, Jordan, before the college discipline board. She needs Haley to be her advisor and friend during the storm to come.

At the same time, Jordan railroads Rich into being his advisor. Not because they're particular friends, but because Jordan may have bragged to Rich about the cute freshman he'd hooked up with, and, well, your advisor can't be forced to testify against you.

To further complicate things, Claire, Rich's ex-girlfriend, is the one helping Jenny prepare for the whole investigation. She's not happy to hear that Rich is 'helping' Jordan.

Drinking Buddy: It's Okay Not to Drink

Haley and Rich are wonderful nerds. Haley, the jock, chafes under her parents' constant meddling and is devastated when a blow to the head ends her athletic career. Never having had a boyfriend, she's convinced she's doing everything wrong when Rich notices her.

Rich, the handsome nerd, is one of the few guys in his house who isn't a mega party animal. He really likes Haley and is kind of surprised when he realizes the feelings are mutual. Rich describes himself as 'Not politically correct.' Usually when someone says that, it's followed by something racist/sexist, etc. In Rich's, case, however, it just means he has a knack for offending people without meaning to. His ex, Claire, dumped him when he joked that she had 'practically raped' him last night. Wrong thing to say to a woman who mans the campus sexual violence hotline.

This is obviously not a feel good book, but the dual narrators made me like them, if no one else.

Testosterone/Estrogen Level: Intense

Reading the accounts of what really happened that night (we're fed this in little drips between the chapters) was like watching a horror movie. 'Don't go in there, Jenny!'

In the rare moments when they're not dealing with the crime, Rich and Haley are almost gag me with a spoon adorable. Feeding each other French fries and going apple picking together. A nice change of pace from the...you know.

Talky Talk: Yes Means Yes

Jenny opts out of pressing criminal charges against Jordan, avoiding the publicity and backlogged rape kits of the police. The school is going to try Jordan. And if he's found not guilty, he'll go free. But if he's found guilty...he may have to drop out of school or something. And as more and more people are forced to talk to the dean, there's some massive blow-back. Not against Jordan, but against Jenny. Social media is not kind, and when she finds 'lying bitch' written on her whiteboard...why is she being treated like this?

Haley is more and more frustrated that Jenny, who she was never close to, expects her to be there to help whenever she's needed. Haley has no problem with this, but...well, she's got problems of her own. Who helps the helper?

Rich is almost immediately disgusted by Jordan and his lawyer. He kind of accidentally-on-purpose feeds Haley and the dean info to torpedo Jordan's case. Hey, the ends justify the means, right?

Claire, Rich's ex, is out for justice, and sometimes pushes Jenny into situations that may be harder on her than Claire realizes. And she's not above throwing Rich under the bus. You know, for the good of the case.

Meanwhile, people are starting to panic. If Jordan is found guilty, who else might get in trouble by proxy? The people who threw the party? (no one gets in without a freshman girl!) The guys mixing the drinks? (Countrytime Lemonade and Everclear) The girls who dragged Jenny to the party and then abandoned her when they got seperated?

Wrecked does an excellent job of showing that even cut and dry issues like rape still have many facets. That being said, sometimes this book did get a little preachy. When Haley and Rich attend a mandatory lecture on sexual consent, it was like attending a mandatory lecture on sexual consent.

Bonus Factor: Consent

So this chick goes back to my room with me, kisses me, lays down in bed with me, and the next morning she cries rape? What the hell, man?

Unfortunately, Jordan's attitude mirrors the thought process of a lot of rapists, who often don't even realize they've committed a crime. While Jenny was stumbling back home in tears, Jordan returns to the room with a bottle of water for Jenny, and some more condoms in case she's ready for another round.

When Haley is told that Jenny was attacked, she pictures some guy in an alley with a knife. She doesn't think of rape as something that happens in a college dorm.

The author does a good job of talking us through the finer points of consent. Yes, we all know 'no means no' and passed out is a big no no, but is that enough? Is it okay if she's drunk? If you're both drunk? Is it enough if she (or he) simply doesn't say no, or should you ask? Wouldn't that kill the moment? And do you have to ask permission for something as simple as, say, a kiss?

While these questions don't always have straightforward answers, the book makes one thing clear: If there's any doubt, then DON'T.

Bromance Status: Counselor

I didn't read this book to cheer up, but that's not always what books are for. With the Secretary of Education gutting campus sexual assault guidelines, books like these are more important than ever.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Algonquin Young Readers. No money or fresh picked apples, though.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.