Not long ago, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Todd Akin, made a medically ludicrous and morally objectionable statement about “legitimate” rape and the chances of a woman becoming pregnant afterward. His remarks and the controversy afterward make the recent release of Alina Klein’s Rape Girl (namelos) especially timely and important. Klein’s short novel packs a big punch, as it explores the aftermath of a 16-year-old girl’s rape by a classmate.
Rape Girl opens on Thanksgiving, when Val has a breakdown. She reveals that after a wild party at her house while her parents were away, a boy from her class raped her. Readers learn that the night before the rape Val had gotten drunk and sick, and the next morning while she was hung over (and possibly still drunk), Adam gained entry to her house and violated her. It’s a case of the very common “acquaintance rape”—while Val liked Adam, the two were not going out. Nonetheless, Adam uses Val’s interest in him to claim that “she wanted it.”
Readers see how the system works against the victim, causing her to become a victim a second time. Val cannot return to school, but Adam continues to attend classes and enjoy his popularity. When she eventually does return, Val is known as “rape girl.” The school arranges for her to receive private tutoring in the class she shares with Adam. His friends lie to make her seem like a slut. Even her best friend shuns her. The authorities twist various aspects of the law to let Adam off the hook. Val has to come to a private closure in the absence of peer support or the rule of law.
Rape Girl is an unflinchingly realistic look at rape, violence, and the state of women’s rights today in the United States. It is both a cautionary tale for teenage girls and a wake-up call for a generation that has become all too complacent.