I feel like I need to start this review with a content warning for the rape scene. If you’ve picked up this book and read the blurb you know it’s coming and if you haven’t read the blurb the first sentence of the book tells you it’s coming. Still, if this is a trigger for you please be safe while reading this book. If you don’t read any further and you’ve experience sexual assault, please know you are not alone and it was not your fault!
This is such an important book. Anne Cassidy has written a book about a serious topic but I enjoyed reading it, except for the rape scene but that’s a no brainer. Of course I wasn’t going to enjoy that bit. Anne made me care about Stacey, her main character, and I felt like I was being let in on Stacey’s private thoughts and experiences. Stacey wasn’t a cardboard cutout character. She had depth. She was real. I could imagine being friends with her if I went to her school.
SPOILER WARNING + maybe just the slightest chance of a therapy session worthy rant to follow
I’m absolutely incensed with the rape in this book, and that’s a good thing. Why? I wouldn’t want to be able to read a book written this well about such a painful subject and not feel, not cry, not want to punch at least one person. It made me want to vomit and I wanted to physically attack both Marty and Harry. Because Anne Cassidy has done a brilliant job with this book and with this subject matter you should have a visceral reaction reading it. Anne’s definitely done something right to get me this riled up.
I don’t know who I hated more, Marty for raping Stacey or Harry for grooming Stacey for his brother. I don’t know. Maybe let’s call it a tie and say they deserve equal amounts of venom.
I appreciated that the set up for this rape wasn’t cut and dry. Stacey had said yes to Harry, but not to Marty. She’d willingly gone alone to a stranger’s apartment with a stranger. She’d been drinking earlier in the day. The reason why I’m glad this was the scenario? So I could say that regardless of every single one of these factors, nothing Stacey did or didn’t do causes any blame to fall on her. She did not give consent so not one of those other details count. She was raped, no ifs, ands or buts. No matter what the circumstance, sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. 100% of the responsibility lies with the perpetrator.
This will sound so weird but hold on; I’ll clarify. I was so glad that Harry’s character was just another school kid, although a rich one, that he had personality plus, he was interested in Stacey’s designs, he offered to help make her dream of being a fashion designer come one step closer … He was a nice guy!
That’s important because despite what the media tells us and what is easier to believe, the majority of sex offenders aren’t dirty old men with trench coats. Sex offenders are peoples’ family, friends, neighbours, workmates, male and female – ordinary people who you would probably like if you had a conversation with them and didn’t know their history. It’s important for young people reading this book to know this!
This book was realistic. Stacey’s dissociation during the rape, her response afterward, her hesitancy at telling anyone, especially the Police … all normal reactions to a horrific experience.
I was so sad that Stacey didn’t feel she could go to her family with this but loved that Stacey had a friend who supported her after she found out about the rape. I love that Patrice recommended Stacey talk to someone at a Rape Crisis Centre. Rape Crisis Centre workers are by and large the most empathetic, understanding, supportive, caring individuals you will ever come across. Nothing you say will shock them as they’ve heard it all before and they will believe you.
I’m a bit ambivalent about Patrice using the “If you don’t report him to the Police, how will you feel if he does it to someone else?” argument, but totally understand why she did it. It’s a difficult thing as a support person to not want to say that sentence because you care about your friend/loved one and you don’t want anyone else to experience what they’re going through. It’s a really tough one, whether to report or not to report, and it’s an individual choice.
The person who has experienced sexual assault often feels more than enough self blame and shame (although they’re not to blame and have done nothing worthy of shame) in the aftermath of their assault without having the guilt of not protecting innumerable other potential victims on their conscience. I’m all for getting offenders off the streets but with such low conviction rates, even reporting a sexual assault to try to protect future victims may not even work because in reality there’s the chance charges may not even be laid. Having said that, if they’ve assaulted you chances are they’ve already done it to at least one other person and they’re likely to continue assaulting more people after you.
Please hear that I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t report to the Police but pressure from other people one way or another adds to an already seemingly unbearable weight. There is no one size fits all answer. I’ve done both (reported to the Police and not reported to the Police) but I still couldn’t begin to tell you what you should do in this situation. I know the benefits and pitfalls of both choices.
I want all young people to read this book. It’s an important educational tool for those who haven’t experience sexual assault. It’s also important for those who have because it says, “You are not alone”, “It was not your fault”, that talking about what happened can help. I loved that this book ends with Stacey taking the first steps toward healing. I was cheering her on the whole time. Well done, Anne! You’ve taken such a difficult topic to talk and write about and left the reader with hope.
So, after this rant, do I want to read the sequel? You bet I do! I can’t wait to read about how Stacey takes her power back and I look forward to seeing those brothers get what’s coming to them. Oh, I hope they get what’s coming to them! I’m emotionally invested in Stacey and I need to travel the next part of her story with her. If I had the sequel with me I’d be starting it immediately but since it hasn’t been released yet (come on, September!!) I think I’ll relax with a nice, calming, sweet children’s book instead.
Once Upon a Blurb
My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.
Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. She does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down. This is Stacey’s story.