BOOK REVIEW: No Virgin by Anne Cassidy
Hot Key Books
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
Young Adult / Contemporary
TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE
One has to appreciate what Anne Cassidy was trying to do in writing this book, in which a seventeen-year-old girl battles with herself as she tries to decide if she can bring herself to report her rape.
It’s an important, powerful, necessary conversation to have, but the execution in this instance left a lot to be desired.
We join Stacey hiding in the bathroom after she’s been raped. She eventually gets up, grabs her things, and leaves, her rapist smiling at her all the while and giving her money to catch a cab home. She goes home and argues with her mum who wants to know where she was the past couple days, and argues with her best friend who gives her the silent treatment for not answering her messages or calls. Then she sits down to write about what happened, starting with the fight she had with her sister which drove her away from the house in the first place.
There are quite a few problems with the execution of this book:
- It’s so very slow.
Although it’s under 190 pages, and although some background info is needed, and although Stacey’s friend (the one who told her to write her story down) told her not to put too much detail in, this reads a lot more slowly than the length would suggest. The rape itself doesn’t happen until 124. The 123 pages before that are there to set the scene.
- The author’s need for a twist.
A book about rape doesn’t need to have a twist. The whole point of a book about rape is that it could happen to anyone, and everyone who has been raped inevitably thinks it’s their fault. The premise of this book was to examine that, and to, one assumes, encourage victims to come forward. But the author felt the need to include a twist here.
The twist is an aspect that does need to be explored, but it felt a little forced, and the character’s feelings and belief that she “should have seen it coming” don’t actually match up with the twist, which seemed to come fairly far out of left-field.
- There is no emotion.
This reader was most moved by something an off-screen character says to Stacey right towards the end of the book.
‘I will hold this line for as long as it takes. I’m in no rush for you to speak. I’ll listen to your silence because I know you are going through a decision-making process. When you’ve decided I will be here to listen to you and help you do what it is you want to do. I can be your friend here. You are not alone That’s what we want you to know.’
It’s hard to engage or feel anything much (besides frustration) about the preceding 181 pages of this 183 page book.
- The character is so young for her age.
Stacey is supposed to be seventeen, but most of the time she carries on like she is no older than fourteen. The voice the story is written in and the length of the book tend to suggest this should be in the middle grade section, but, while there is limited gory detail, this is understandably not for younger readers.
- The law-student wants less detail.
This is a bit of a personal peeve, but the best friend who asked Stacey to write her story down also said:
‘Don’t make it too long and don’t have lots of description in it. I hate books with lots of description.’
This is shitty on a best friend level AND on a future lawyer level.
- The passive main character.
Most of the “decisions” in this book happened as a result of Stacey saying something to another character, either via text or in person, and then realising that was what she was going to do. She never weighed up the pros and cons of a situation or made a conscious decision, but rather followed wherever her mouth (or thumbs) led her.
And sadly too few redeeming qualities, or things that could have been redeeming qualities if properly played out:
- Teenage pregnancy.
Stacey’s younger sister got pregnant at fourteen and is now a single teem mum. Most of the time she does a pretty poor job of it, foisting her infant son off on her sister and mother.
- Drug usage / underage drinking in an unfamiliar environment.
Stacey drinks quite a bit over the space of a few days, potentially contributing to her own confusion and lack of quick thinking when the rape occurred.
- Grooming for rape.
Again, a very important topic, but handled poorly. In trying to give the reader a twist, the author has made it so that the signs aren’t there, hence not showing future potential rape victims what to keep an eye out for.
All in all this was a rather dull read, with many things that didn’t quite make sense and a message that was never conveyed properly.
It could go well for older readers of a less advanced reading skill, or those who are reluctant readers, but again, the message wasn’t delivered particularly well,
If you’re looking for a title that deals with this subject well, amazing things have been said about All the Rage by Courtney Summers.
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