Crystal Rose, a 17-year-old high school junior, and her younger brother were abandoned by their drug-addicted mother fifteen years ago in an Alaskan Native village, an event which Crystal resented for years. However, when she learns that her mother was raped in high school, Crystal declares war against a society which reduces girls to their looks, forcing them to feel worthless without the approval of guys.
While living in a small Alaskan town, she starts The War Blog website, along with her best friend and crush Kato—a brilliant Native boy—attacking everything promoting female objectification and offering ways to fight back, all supplemented by her original songs. Crystal rises from nothing in the wilds of Alaska to become a champion for change, risking her life against men who would force her to keep silent. She faces her parents’ abusive past and fights for a better world.
Rating: 1 star
Thank you to Black Rose Writing for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warnings for this book: excessive accounts and discussion of rape, sexual assault, pedophilia, child abuse, and heavy drug/alcohol use.
“Girls can be strong without needing balls.”
Wow, I am really dreading reviewing this.
Let me start out by saying that I didn’t look at the Goodreads page for this novel until after I’d already downloaded the file for it. That… was my first mistake. I was immediately alarmed by the amount of low ratings that this book got, but I was still interested because I am always down to check out something that tackles heavy topics. I did note that the story was supposed to be about a girl starting a “War Against Rape”, but that it was written by a man. I sauntered on anyways because I am always happy to credit anyone, regardless of sex or gender, for aiding in important discussions, especially one’s like these. I thought, “Surely since he’s decided to broach such an important topic, he’ll do so with care. I mean, he could’ve chosen to talk about the effects of sexual assault on men since that stigma is equally bad, but he chose to talk about it from a woman’s perspective. So it’ll be done well. I hope.”
However… this was an absolute disaster. I actually ended up leaving this as a DNF at the 62% mark, but I feel like I read plenty enough to still talk about it. First of all, the writing was sub-par. I wouldn’t necessarily call it bad, but it didn’t blow me away either. There were several instances where I thought some heavy editing should of been done, but clearly wasn’t. The story starts off a bit too quickly and the pacing is pretty odd. A lot gets packed into each day which makes the story feel too chaotic.
Second of all… this was an extremely upsetting book. I was hopeful that Sobey would use this opportunity to do good for the topic of sexism, misogyny, and sexual assault, but instead this was peppered with some very offensive content. There are a lot of instances of rape/near rapes in this, which isn’t really unrealistic (we’ve all seen the stats), but every instance is used as a tool for the story. One girl gets assaulted by her boyfriend and the whole thing is given a couple pages about bad the MC feels. There are also several times when one of the boys in this story attempts to force himself on the MC and while the whole town knows about it, it’s put completely aside unless the author needs to bring it back up for two seconds. Now, I know that sexual assault isn’t taken nearly as seriously as it should be, but if this is supposed to be a story about girls and boys rising against rape culture, why on earth is no one taking what’s happening seriously!? Even the MC herself sweeps it under the rug.
On top of this, there is a huge portrayal of rape victims being drug addicts. Whether they were addicted before and that was the cause (I know, it’s infuriating to me, too), or they became addicted afterwards to ease their pain, practically every single woman in this story has or is addicted to drugs or alcohol. At one point the MC points out that since she’s not addicted to drugs, rapists have to find other ways to demean her (like by ridiculing her body). Also, most of the women who have been assaulted have absolutely disastrous lives afterwards, and everybody says, “Oh it’s because she was raped”. Literally. A lot of problems can come from the PTSD after being sexually assaulted. Trust me, I know. But every single rape victim is not going to succumb to a drug-induced haze to get through with the remainder of their lives. I judge no one for how they cope or handle their pain, but it’s a very ugly stereotype that I didn’t think any sexual assault victim would appreciate.
Sobey also seems to have some weird complex where he wants to bring attention to sexual assault but still demeans women. It was super weird to be in the middle of this story and to keep seeing the words “slut” and “whore” thrown around. AND NOT IRONICALLY. The words weren’t being used by men to fuel hatred. They were literally being used by the main character as just a passing thought!! Someone please explain to me how that makes absolutely any sense, since Crystal is supposed to be this strong warrior in the fight against assault. I guess that’s supposed to excuse her ugly thoughts about other women.
I could honestly go on and on with a rant about this book. It upset me a lot. At one point one of the characters even basically makes fun of the MC’s special needs brother to the family but nothing is ever made of it. He’s actually praised directly after for how smart he is. I tried to give it a chance and pushed past the half way mark hoping that at some point the story would pick up, but it never happened. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. Steer clear.