I’ve been mulling this review over for about a week because I wasn’t quite sure what to say about the book. I’m still not quite sure what I think about it, but here goes nothing. The book follows Hadley, a high school senior. Her best friend, Magda, has recently committed suicide after being drugged and raped at a party by boys that attend their high school. Hadley is grieving and angry, and begins to take revenge on the guys while wearing a pink ski mask, attempting to make them feel a little of what Magda felt after the rape. If you haven’t realized it all ready, there are MAJOR trigger warnings here for rape, sexual assault, and a possessive/controlling relationship.
There were things that were interesting about this novel, and there were also things that made me uncomfortable. I’ll try to explain both without spoiling anything. The book did bring up a lot of the typical things people say about rape that are problematic and discussed them, which is a good way to start discussion with teens and readers about the problematic rape culture we find ourselves in. Hadley herself is not exempt from making problematic comments, and I think her lack of perfection as a protagonist is somewhat refreshing, though was off-putting at first. The book also does a good job of promoting female friendships, even if those friendships eventually endorse/promote Hadley’s violence, which I’m going to go into further in a moment.
Now, let’s talk about some of the things that made me uncomfortable. First, the romance featured in the novel wasn’t altogether healthy. At times, the guy Hadley is with is possessive and controlling and she calls him out for it, but continues to see him. In other ways, he comes across as a good guy, but so do most guys who are possessive and controlling. Furthermore, Hadley’s violence as the vigilante is all tied up with the “love” they feel for each other, and I wasn’t a fan of that. Love and violence aren’t meant to intermingle so much in healthy relationships. Also, I understood where Hadley was coming from for much of the book. Maybe her getting revenge on the rapists shouldn’t have made me so uncomfortable, but there are times where her revenge comes close to crossing the line (e.g. actively thinking about how she could sexually assault one of the boys, but she won’t because that would make her the same as him) or goes into actual violence. While the level Hadley takes it to made me uncomfortable at times, I could also understand where she was coming from. Too often, men who rape women go free and women are expected to do nothing about it. In that respect, a woman who takes the reins and helps prevent other women from being attacked is interesting to see.
Even after writing this review, I’m still not sure where I stand with this book. It’s violent and messy, but so is the content it’s dealing with. While I had some issues, it was extremely hard to put the novel down and I wanted to see how it ended. I think, at its best, it’s a novel that is sure to spark controversy and conversation, and could lead to constructive dialogue around rape, sexual assault, and our culture. That being said, I think it’s best read with understanding of some of its drawbacks, the biggest being a relationship Hadley engages in that doesn’t seem altogether healthy. If you read it, keep the trigger warnings in mind. I’d be interested to hear what you think about this difficult read that covers such an essential topic, even if I’m unsure it’s covered in the best way.
Note: I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Rating: 3 out of 5 (?)
Read Vigilante? What did you think? If not, will you read it? Let me know in the comments!