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Sexual abuse and sexual assault can screw people up like nobody’s business. Responses can vary from not wanting to be touched at all to wanting to have sex with everyone to anything between the two or far beyond them. It’s one of those events so damaging that their effects on the victims are unpredictable. With Fault Line, Desir writes a raw and perfectly illustrated story of one girl’s downward spiral, the boyfriend who goes down with her while trying to help her, and how rape is everyone’s problem, not just the victim’s. This is a tragedy, not a mystery.
Ani and Ben’s development both separately and together feels a little bit rushed, but there’s enough personality and heart on Ani’s part to feel her pain immediately once she’s raped about a third of the way through the book. Her downward spiral into trying to empower herself by living up to her reputation while telling herself she’s challenging it is all too familiar. I wanted to reach into the book and tell her she was only hurting herself and others, but I know I’d never get through to her. No one could at the point she was at. Not even her beloved Ben.
Ben’s individual development is the one that carries most of the novel’s issues. We hear about how he’s on the swim team and up for a scholarship and spends a lot of time with his family, but we don’t see very little of that in action before Ani is raped and he starts to neglect all that to try and help her get better. It’s simply things we heard he lost and it almost turns him into a vehicle for a story instead of a living, breathing part of the story. The last thirty pages or so are what save him because he finally gets it. Though I know there’s little to no hope for a sequel, I’d love to know where both Ben and Ani go after the abrupt yet strong ending of the novel.
What’s especially sad is how true-to-life this book is about the way people will treat rape victims like Ani, who have little to no idea what happened to them. They’ll say rape must not have happened because she doubted herself due to her lack of memory or she dressed/acted a certain way or they’d rather side with the people who took advantage of her and raped her when she was clearly intoxicated.
These are the kind of horrible people who manipulate the few known and many unknown details of the incident to support their positions, bring in a strawman argument like “two drunk people have sex, the girl wakes up the next morning and calls rape because she doesn’t want people to know she did it willingly” to a situation that is NOTHING like that, and sympathize with the Steubenville rapists. These are people who are all too common and once the book is out, reviews along these lines are sure to pop up. These are people I want to wash my hands of, but running into one is almost certain because of widespread myths and lies about rape.
I’ve been a fan of Desir for a while because of how she expresses her beliefs and personality on Twitter and it’s great to see those beliefs shine through in Fault Lines‘s pages. Her next YA novel won’t be out until fall 2014, but I’m already anticipating it eagerly and planning to get a finished copy of Fault Line to go on my shelves (or in my bins of books, as the case may be; there’s no room for a bookshelf in my dorm room).