IT’S TIME TO TAKE YOUR PLACE ON THE JURY.
The victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.
The defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories. WHOSE SIDE WOULD YOU TAKE?
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
An intense legal drama that explores ethical and moral issues. When a young disabled girl accuses four young boys of rape. Contemporary issues of race, religion, prejudice and social divisiveness are all in evidence in this authentically plotted crime fiction novel.
The first half of the story begins with the rape accusation and the police procedural that follows on from this. Jodie makes her accusation at a rape crisis centre, which brings her into contact to Zara, an ex-barrister, now reinvented as a rape crisis caseworker. Jodie accuses four boys at her school, she is white and suffers from a disfiguring disability to her face, which has laid her open to bullying throughout her young life. The boys are all Muslim, Zara is also Muslim, and so from the outset, there is inevitable tension, between individuals, families and the community.
There is a strong element of family drama in this first part of the story, as we learn more about the victim, her advocate and the four accused boys. The family reactions and the power of social media are all well documented here. Trial by the press and social media are recurrent themes, and everyone is tainted by them.
The second part of the story is the trial. The courtroom drama is portrayed believably. The drama outside the courtroom is disturbing and powerful. The penultimate twist is harrowing, but don’t breathe out too soon, there is more, and this is what makes this story resonate.
Complex, contemporary characters, realistic social issues, and a good understanding of the communities and the issues that they face, make this story read like ‘true crime’ rather than fiction. It is worth reading, even though, sometimes, it’s painful to do so.