This was a painful read, but I think the very reasons it was painful are also the reasons why it is important. I was angry at a lot of the characters throughout this book, including the main character at times, even as I felt bad for a number of them at various times as well.
Even before Emma, the main character, is raped, this book was not pleasant. Emma and her friends were awful. Awful to one another and awful to other people. They are the mean girls of other stories. They put people down, bully others, backstab one another, steal things, and do a number of other things to demonstrate just how terrible they are at the start of the book.
But none of that matters when it comes to Emma’s rape. Yes, she was not a nice person. But it doesn’t matter. She didn’t deserve it. She didn’t deserve a group of boys (and an adult man) raping her while she was unconscious and doing other things to her body, all while they filmed everything. Her actions don’t justify their actions. Not that that stops so many people in her community from trying to excuse them by tearing her down. Because they’re all athletes with promising futures that shouldn’t be ruined by this. It’s a familiar story that I’ve seen play out in the news more times than I’d like. It’s an awful one, and none of that awfulness is ignored here. Emma is a shadow of herself after details of the rape come out and has been beaten down by so many people, including those she thought she could count on.
This is not a happy story. But it is one, unfortunately, that reflects a reality that some rape survivors face. And no one deserves it, regardless of who they are as a person.