Things are never black and white, even when it comes to rape.
“Wrecked” by Maria Padian, a new and engaging young adult fiction, hit bookshelves Oct. 4. It follows a girl entering her freshman year in college named Haley, whose roommate, Jenny, accuses another student of rape after a wild and drunken night. Haley becomes involved in the rape investigation and is drawn in to act as an investigation adviser to her traumatized roommate. All of this happens while Haley tries to deal with her own personal problems —one of which is a guy-shaped problem.
Richard is a handsome sophomore who tutors Haley in math and, incidentally, is currently acting as investigation adviser for Jordan, Jenny’s accused rapist. Haley and Richard’s attempts at romance become snarled as the investigation progresses, and readers are swept along in a tangle of questions, pettiness and doubt.
Padian alternates her third-person perspectives each chapter, switching between Haley and Richard. It added an interesting dimension by allowing the reader to see both sides of the investigation but not giving enough information to know who is telling the truth.
Each chapter opens with a fragment of the night Jenny was attacked, giving the readers a limited view of the character that most of the drama revolves around.
The dialogue was realistic for the most part, with natural conversations between characters. There were a few awkward moments when the subject would go from discussing the rape investigation to making semi-romantic comments, but overall, readers could believe they were listening to actual conversations. Like this conversation between Richard and Jordan:
“Since when did our man Exley become such a bartender?”
“Dr. Exley,” Jordan corrected. “He’s got a Ph.D. People Hafta Drink.”
Padian’s quick movements between dialogue and inner monologue keeps the plot moving at a reasonable pace so readers can stay immersed in the story.
However, it is all written in present tense. While in some ways it was engaging to read as though the action was happening before my eyes, it can be jarring when I am used to reading stories in past tense.
Also, Padian’s use of colons was another jarring choice. Young adult fiction can be generally characterized by approachable writing, like J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series and John Green’s “Fault in Our Stars.” Seeing a liberal usage of colons, a more formal grammatical convention, can take you out of the moment. However, the colons are used grammatically correct for the most part.
Overall, it was a satisfactory read. Padian’s characters were flawed but in a way readers can identify and connect with. The people I wanted to root for weren’t always doing the right thing, like Haley when she got wrapped up in her own problems and would snap at Jenny. And the ones who were “the bad guys” were shown in a way that left me wondering exactly what was going on as Padian avoided overt shows of villainy.
No spoilers here. Feel free to grab a copy of “Wrecked” and check it out for yourself if you’re looking for a relatable, college-based novel to pick up this fall.
Dixie Sun Ranking: 3.5 suns out of 5