The title isn’t a trendy saying, instead it’s the rage of Romy Grey who was date raped by a popular boy, and Sheriff’s son. Once he is accused, Romy is an outcast – seen as a liar and bullied by the small town high school teenagers, and even prominent adults in the community. This is a story that needs to be told- date rape occurs and should be reported. I’ll get this out at the beginning – Romy is a survivor in more ways than one.
It begins with the retelling of a night in which Romy was so excited – what to wear on an anticipated date, being asked out by the cutest boy, and then having “fun” defined by the 6, 7, 8, 9, and even 10 shots of alcohol she ingested – probably no more then 110 pounds.
“How do you get a girl to stop crying? You cover her mouth”
Where are the friends the night of and where are the adults the days after I was left wondering? It makes me sad to read about the isolation and shame that results after a rape and certainly after a woman doesn’t report it. This is a strongly written, bold and powerful novel. If every girl who experience some form of harassment had the strength of Romy, we would bee strong stronger as a female population. Romy struggles and it is also important for readers to see protagonists with real life struggles and that there isn’t always a quick fix.
Months after her rapist has left town, the harassment continues as classmates are angry of his absence and she is seen as a liar. Throughout the novel, she uses red nail polish and red lipstick as her shield and Romy finds courage to go to school each day (impressively), but her real solace is working in a diner one town over with people who don’t know her or her history. When these worlds collide, Romy must face her past and also her vulnerability. There are positive people in her life, but they cannot offset the mean girls at school and the harassment of boys. When Romy is found on a dirt road, 30 miles from town after going missing one night, with her clothes messed up and the words “Rape Me” written on her stomach, she cannot ignore her past any longer. The same night, the town’s favorite popular girl also goes missing and Romy wonders if the coincidence of their disappearance on the same night has any link to her past.
Summers covers the aftermath of rape – isolation, shame, anger – well and also shows the strength in Romy as she deals with a town who shames her and calls her a liar. When even the Sheriff publicly humiliates a teenager, one can’t read past the unfairness and sexism that Romy faces and that females still face such horrible backlash if coming forward with rape accusations against the wrong guy – even if it is the truth. There is cruelty and unfairness in this novel, but there is also determination and strength. In the end, Romy’s truth is known, she accepts support, and kindness from an unlikely person helps her feel validated and have a sense of worth. Still, there are lots of serious mature issues in this besides the date rape. Definitely a book I won’t forget for a while for the honest and respectful way it dealt with a serious issue of rape, teenage parties and bullying being allowed by adults, and how quickly one girl can get lost and isolated.
I am interested in Courtney Summers now and her award winning other books. I love that this is her idea of a great character, “She likes writing books about girls who only have themselves because sometimes that realization is the scariest and most important thing–the slow untangling of the difference between ‘lonely’ and ‘alone.’ Her favorite kind of stories are the ones that make you wish so badly they’d ended differently but deep down you know they really couldn’t have gone any other way.” She is a strong voice, who seems to focus on strong female characters. Read more about her on her website