Friday, December 21

Our Little Secret - Allayne Webster

Edwina Saltmarsh's life is uneventful - she lives in a small country town where nothing ever happens, has parents who care more about what the church thinks that her, always has to look after her younger brothers, and isn't as pretty as her friend Becky. She hasn't even been kissed by a boy, and she's fourteen already.
When Becky's older sister is raped on the way home from school, the town's scandalised. Anne-Marie won't say who did it - in face, she won't speak at all - but it had to be a stranger. And besides, as Ed's mum says, she was asking for it - she wore short skirts, after all. Never mind that she hadn't even kissed a boy.
Ed's more concerned about her own issues. And when cute, older Tom starts spending a little time with her, Ed's flattered. He has a car, he knows what he's doing, and he seems to like her. Her parents trust him around her, maybe because at twenty-five they don't even think of him that way. But when he starts running a finger up and down Ed's leg when her dad's watching TV, Ed gets a funny excited feeling and she knows he really does like her.
If Anne-Marie was asking to be raped then Ed must have been, too. She stopped saying no, after all, even if it was because she was crying too hard to talk, and she wore nice clothes so Tom would look at her. It's her fault he did what he did. Isn't it?
This is an important topic, told in a way that unsophisticated, sheltered girls like Ed (which is, after all, many young teens, all the more so if they think they are knowledgeable and worldly) can relate to. I had a number of quibbles with the plot - in particular, I found the timeframe hard to judge. And I didn't like anything about the Anne-Marie sub-plot, from the condemnation of her given the lack of any actual basis (she was hardly the town bike), through to how she ended up and the lack of support given to her by anyone, including (or perhaps particularly) her family, including her sister, Ed's best friend. I found the whole situation too obviously a counter-point to and an object lesson for Edwina, and the conclusion a bit too pat.
But I'm coming at this from a very different perspective from the target audience, and I think the seduction and set up by the predator, and the later identification of these stages ("that's called grooming") and explanation of his deliberate behaviour ("he was testing how far you'd let him go, where you'd let him touch you...") was useful. I also think the target audience will identify with Ed, her romantic dreams, and her willingness to let them, peer pressure and benign parental neglect influence not only what happened by Ed's willingness to bear the brunt of the responsibility herself - at least for a while. - Alex

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