Chris Lynch raised some important and provocative questions in his 2005 novel Inexcusable, in which a high school senior is accused of date rape. This book certainly wasn’t the first time that rape has come up in teen fiction, but it was among the most talked about for its raw look at personal responsibility through the eyes of the accused rapist. Since 2005, the issue of date/acquaintance rape has become more common both in the news and in teen fiction.
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus provides yet another perspective on the subject: the sister of the accused, the best friend of the victim. The accusation changes everything. Liz struggles through feelings of guilt and grief as she tries to come to terms with the reality of the accusation. The verse narration is straightforward and honest. Teens will be drawn in by the provocative subject and swept up in the fast-moving emotional story.
Jenny Downham’s upcoming novel You Against Me takes a similar angle on the subject as the narration flips back and forth between Mikey (brother of the victim) and Ellie (sister of the accused). Loyalties are stretched thin as Ellie and Mikey are drawn together in a complex romance.
Daisy Whitney deftly explores issues of consent in Mockingbirds as a woman who has been there. An author’s note explains that she was date raped as a freshman in college. Like Alex in Mockingbirds, Whitney pressed charges through a student-run disciplinary council. Unlike in Mockingbirds, the council had the authority from the university to hear the case. The experience left Whitney with a strong belief in speaking up about date rape and other traumatic experiences as a way of protecting each other. She writes a compelling and complex story in Mockingbirds.
I generally try to avoid spoilers in my blog posts, but what if just including a particular book in a post is a spoiler? I’ve decided to include it. If you don’t want to know anything, you are duly warned of spoiler content ahead.
Judy Lohden begins telling her story as she hides out in a seedy hotel. Slowly (very slowly) readers are let in on why she is hiding. It isn’t until nearly the end of Big Girl Small that we finally get to the source of Judy’s humiliation. This novel, published for adults, explores issues of privacy, teen drinking, teen sex, and consent. It is published for adults, but the high school setting and the relevant subject matter will draw in mature teen readers.
It may not be easy to delve into these complex issues, but we live in a world where teens need to be aware of them. If your high school conducts a seminar or holds a discussion on date rape, you will want to have these titles available to add to the discussion.
Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin. 2011.
Exposed by Kimberly Marcus. 2011.
Inexcusable by Chris Lynch. 2005.
Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. 2010.
You Against Me by Jenny Downham. 2011.