Jared, Bree and Kenzie have been friends for a long time, until the events that took place at a party two years ago. Jared knew his brother planned this party with his Year 12 friends with the sole purpose of having sex with as many Year 9 girls as possible. Apparently these get togethers are a common occurrence. Jared fails to warn his friends and Kenzie is raped at the party. Jared’s guilt comes to a head when a photo of Kenzie from the night she was raped is posted on social media.
Before reading this book I’d never heard of a Hi-Lo book. For those as in the dark as I was, Hi-Lo are high-interest, low-readability books; basically books with more mature themes for reluctant readers if my understanding is correct. I love the concept. Anything that helps non-readers become readers is something to be applauded in my world.
I felt this book had potential as it addressed rape culture. It saddens and horrifies me that rape is so prevalent in society that it has its own culture. I’m not sure you can ever say that you enjoy a book where the central theme is sexual assault but in the context of a Hi-Lo book, I think the author did a good job.
I liked that this story is told from the point of view of a 16 year old boy. The majority of books I’ve read about sexual assault are told primarily from a female perspective. I like that at the end of the book the author listed some website resources. I didn’t really find a connection with any of the characters, although that may be in part because this was a quick read and as such there wasn’t the opportunity to get to know the characters as well as you do in longer novels.
I can understand Jared questioning why Kenzie never reported what happened to her. Until you’ve been there you don’t know what you’d do in that situation and there is no right or wrong answer. Some people report. Others don’t. I can understand both sides.
I appreciated the growth shown in Jared’s character throughout the book and how he kept trying to reach out to Kenzie. Jared talks about how useful the mediation training sessions he’s been attending have been but I would have liked to hear more about what he learned so readers could take something else away from the book.
I felt as though some of language attributed to the teens in the book didn’t work for the target audience or as examples of how young people speak. I’m not sure 15 and 16 year olds would be using terms like ‘young man’ used to describe a teenager in a video, or ‘compromising photos’ used to describe nude selfies or revenge porn. Also, some of the conversations read like they belonged in a pamphlet found in a counsellor’s office, not coming out of the mouths of teens.
It really frustrated me that while the author mentioned Kenzie was getting slut shamed on social media, the photograph in question constituted child pornography and no one did anything about it. While the focus is on Kenzie’s rape, there’s all of this blame from the characters towards Bree. Yes, Bree made really bad decisions, but… Maybe there are different laws where the author lives but where I come from a 14 year old girl is not old enough to legally be able to give consent so even if she was all for it, it’s still statutory rape.
I would have liked to have seen at least one person other than the victims experience consequences. Cam gets away with raping Kenzie. Seth gets away with physically abusing Jared, the statutory rape of Bree, and the production and distribution of child pornography. Who knows how many unnamed Year 12 boys raped how many unnamed Year 9 girls at their parties. Countless people in social media land do nothing when they see child pornography being distributed except shame the victim. Bree distributed child pornography and deserves to go down in history as being one of the worst friends ever. Jared’s father gets away with the blatant neglect of his son. No one at the school appears to even acknowledge the fact that Kenzie barely attends. I could probably go on, but that’s enough frustration at the lack of accountability.
Content warnings include sexual assault, victim blaming, suicidal thoughts and actions, and physical abuse.
Thank you very much to NetGalley and Lorimer Children & Teens for the opportunity to read this book. I’d recommend watching Audrie & Daisy to anyone interested in a great documentary that complements the themes of this book quite well.
Once Upon a Blurb
Epic Fail tells the story of Kenzie, a 16-year-old half Native American girl, and her two best friends, who have grown up in a multiracial, mixed-income suburb. Two years after a party where Kenzie was raped, she is still dealing with the trauma. When photos of the incident appear on social media there are serious consequences for everyone involved.
This book tells a tough but realistic story about teen relationships and sexual assault and how social media plays a role in magnifying its impact.