Book Review: No Shame (Anne Cassidy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 192

Release Date: September 21st 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Stacey Woods has been raped and now she has to go through a different ordeal – the court trial. But nothing in life it seems is black and white and life is not always fair or just. Suddenly it seems that she may not be believed and that the man who attacked her may be found not guilty . . . if so Stacey will need to find a way to rebuild her life again . . .

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Book Review: No Virgin (Anne Cassidy)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 192

Release Date: November 3rd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

Review:

I loved Looking for JJ and Finding Jennifer Jones by Anne Cassidy so I was excited to read something else from her.

This is a bit of an odd book. Straight away, Stacey tells us what happened to her: she was raped. We see a glimpse of the aftermath, before she goes back to the beginning and tells her story. Her best friend has told her to write it down, starting at the beginning and leaving nothing out. And it does read more like an account than a story at times: maybe a little cold, maybe a little simple, which might not be to everyone’s tastes, but I found it very effective.

This was a very short read but I felt connected to Stacey and really rooted for her as she struggled to come to terms with what had happened to her. The worst thing about it for me, but also the most accurate, was the way she blamed herself for it. She’s had sex before, she went back to a house with a basic stranger, she tried to initiate sec with him the night before: all these things she feels work towards her being to blame in some way for what happened to her. She’s afraid of what others will think if they know all the details. She’s ashamed.

This is such a common narrative in abuse in real life, and it’s so sad to read. It shouldn’t have to be said, but if you are raped or abused, you are not to blame, no matter what you were wearing or what you drank or how many people you’ve had sex with before. This book really hammered home the point for me. As Stacey tells her story, it doesn’t make me think she was asking for it or deserved it because she got herself into a silly situation. I only felt sympathy. The idea that no one would believe her, an average girl with divorced parents a teen-mother sister over some rich and well connected boy really angered me too.

Cassidy really gets into the mindset of the victim in this book. Although it doesn’t have as big an impact as other books might (Asking For It by Louise O’Neill springs to mind) it still gets under your skin and takes an unflinching look at rape victims and blame culture. It’s an important read, and I’d recommend you pick it up.

4

Book Review: Finding Jennifer Jones (Anne Cassidy)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 304

Release Date: February 6th 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kate Rickman seems just like any other nineteen-year-old girl. She goes to university, she dates nice, normal boys and she works in her local tourist office at the weekend. But Kate’s not really normal at all. ‘Kate’ is in fact a carefully constructed facade for a girl called Jennifer Jones – and it’s a facade that’s crumbling fast. Jennifer has spent the last nine years frantically trying to escape from her horrifying past. Increasingly desperate, Jennifer decides to do something drastic. She contacts the only other girl who might understand what she’s dealing with, breaking every rule of her parole along the way. Lucy Bussell is the last person Jennifer expects any sympathy from, but she’s also the last person she has left.

Review:

I was super excited when I first heard about this sequel to the wonderful Looking for JJ, which was a favourite book of mine as a teen. However, when I thought about it a bit more, the doubts started creeping in. Looking for JJ was an amazing stand alone book in my head for ten years and I’d never really thought it needed a sequel. What if the new book was surplus and it tainted the original for me?

Luckily, this wasn’t the case. Finding Jennifer Jones had plenty of new and interesting material to cover, both in Jennifer’s past and her present.

When we last left Jennifer Jones, she was starting a new life as Kate Rickman. We join her a couple of years later to find out how her life is progressing now. She’s changed from when she was shy, quiet Alice. This grown up version gets drunk and goes back to houses with random guys and skips out on her probation appointments. She’s tired of a life of being checked up on and feeling like she’s always looking over her shoulder. And when a young girl is murdered in the area and can be linked to her, things only get worse.

I liked this grown up Jennifer, though I did question some of the choices that she made. It’s such an impossible situation for her though: yes, she’s done her time and has technically been released to live her life, but she still did a terrible wrong and has to report in to various people. While she still feels guilty about what she did, she wants to be left alone to live in peace. But she also questions if she deserves that. It’s a really complex situation, and I couldn’t really decide my view on it. While I always feel on her side, as a protagonist I’m fond of, it doesn’t erase the fact that she took the life of a child.

There’s a lot more revealed about Jennifer’s life after the act she committed. I’d been curious about what went on afterwards, and it was great to read more about the trial and her life in a secure unit. We also see some familiar faces and find out about the wider effects of her act, as it changed the lives of more than just her and Michelle’s parents.

This was another fascinating book and I’m so glad I read it. It’s great to revisit a character that I loved so long ago, and I hope the sequel will encourage a new generation of teens to read the original too.

4

Book Review: Looking for JJ (Anne Cassidy)

Publisher: Scholastic Canada

Pages: 304

Release Date: February 1st 2006

Summary (from Goodreads):

Three children walked away from the cottages on the edge of town toward Berwick Waters. Later that day, only two of them came back. Alice Tully knows exactly what happened that spring day six years ago, though it’s still hard for her to believe it. She’ll never be able to forget, even though she’s trying to lead a normal life—she has a job, friends, and a boyfriend whom she adores. But Alice’s past is dangerous, and violent, and sad… and it’s about to rip her new life apart.

Review:

This is a book I read and loved as a teen. When a sequel was released in 2014 I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and now I finally have (a lovely birthday present from Nathan). It’s also a good excuse to reread an old favourite.

Looking for JJ tackles a difficult subject matter, and one I’ve not encountered before, in adult or YA books (not to say it hasn’t been done, but I don’t think it’s widely written about). At 10 years old, Jennifer Jones murders her best friend. Whatever reasons or excuses you can make for her – her difficult upbringing, her mum’s prostitution, a sudden flash of temper – she still did it.

Six years later, Jennifer has been released from a secure unit and has a new identity. She struggles with what she did in the past, with hiding her identity from the new relationships she makes, and she wonders if she deserves this life and deserves to be happy.

The book is split into several parts, dealing with Jennifer’s upbringing, the day of the murder and what happened next, and her life now. It’s really fascinating to read a book from a child murderer’s point of view. I’ve read about similar cases in the news and always thought the children must be horrible and born evil. If I read Jennifer’s story as just the murder and none of the backstory then I’d probably think the same. But seeing the series of events leading up to it, and how she behaves all these years later, it’s a lot more conflicting. While you can’t forget she did something horrible, you also sympathise with her.

When her past does, as the blurb says, rip her new life apart, I felt really sorry for her. Even if she did do something bad, there’s something about her character that just makes you want her to succeed. I really liked how Cassidy gets into her mind and we see her struggling to accept what she’s done. There’s also a really amazing line which I just loved, where Jennifer says she feels she doesn’t deserve a nice life after taking someone else’s, and she’s told that then she’s wasting two lives, and she owes it to the dead girl to live.

I never really expected a sequel to this story, so I’ll be really interested to see what happened to her next, and how she’s coping with everything after a couple of years of freedom.

4