Book Review - Fallout - Sandra Glover
Recommended for YA/Adults
* SPOILER WARNING - I could try to review this without spoiling anything, but it's much more difficult to talk about the issues within*
There's no ambiguity when it comes to consent and rape: if someone says 'no', and you carry on, then it's rape. So what happens when the victim believes they've said 'no', but the other party doesn't think they did? Especially if there's copious amounts of alcohol clouding everyone's memories?
That's the question that everyone's asking in Fallout, where an accusation of rape is made following an alcohol-fuelled teen party. The story itself explores the points of view of both parties involved, as well as the views of several friends (one from POV), and overall is a fantastic portrayal of the difficulty surrounding accusations of rape, particularly where alcohol is involved. It kept me hooked right from the beginning, sending little twists to the story when I was sure we were about to uncover a truth, and leaving me in no doubt that I've got a story to recommend to anyone who wants to warn their children about getting too drunk at a party.
Neither Hannah nor Shane stand out as being anything except ordinary, but that isn't a negative; it makes the story stronger in my view, because it shows that these things can happen to ordinary people. Zak on the other hand has a much darker character, though with reasons that are quickly explained, which works well for his role in the story as the more likely suspect in the crime (at least initially).
Throughout the book, we see both Hannah and Shane's sides of the story (along with the truthful fact that in cases such as this, people will take their own sides and form opinions without necessarily having any of the facts straight), with Hannah having a very hazy memory but certain that she said 'no', and Shane being far more with it but convinced that Hannah initiated everything and didn't tell him to stop. It makes for an almost impossible situation, and in fact Hannah's mother sums it up best towards the end when she realises that they could both look her in the eye and swear they were telling the truth. Ultimately though, within Shane's thoughts we realise that Hannah did indeed say 'no', though he dismissed this as her not really meaning it, which turns him immediately into an actual villain. Part of me wonders whether keeping him as truly believing he'd never actually heard the word 'no' would have made for a more powerful ending, showing the tragedy of two parties being badly affected by a lack of evidence either way, but then again the fact that he doesn't recognise the 'no' is tragic enough in itself.
There was another storyline that I was expecting it to go with at one point, though I'm willing to admit that I've got completely the wrong end of the stick here - I swear that at one point Shane mentions someone hearing someone else in the house before he slept with Hannah, and that this person isn't explained - I was expecting the story to be that Shane and Hannah had sex (or he left beforehand), and then another person came in and raped her afterwards, and the alcohol was blurring her memories. That would also have been interesting and could have dealt with the issue of false rape allegations without making Hannah's story any less tragic, though that takes nothing away from how good the storyline actually written is.
It's always good to come across a YA book that you can read in a session or two and that raises some excellent moral and ethical questions, and Fallout is definitely one of those. I'm certainly going to be on the lookout for more books by Sandra Glover.