Book Review by Zinta Aistars
· Reading level: Young Adult
· Paperback: 170 pages
· Publisher: iUniverse, Inc., 2006)
· Price: $13.95
· ISBN-10: 0595409261
· ISBN-13: 978-0595409266
In this novel for young adults—with something valuable to say to older adults, as well—Kate Buckley has had the courage to take on subject matter few will touch. As evidence: after a long search for a traditional publisher, Buckley had to self-publish for her story to see print. While none of the traditional publishers denied the quality and value of Buckley’s writing, all were squeamish at backing up a topic that continues to ignite a furor among those who are pro-life and those who defend a woman’s right to make choices about her pregnancy. Only after Buckley’s book saw quick success and critical acclaim (Kirkus, Ms. Magazine, and others) did traditional publishers consider her work, and Choices may yet see the imprint of one of these on its title page in a second printing.
The author comes to her writing with substantial experience. A Santa Fe, New Mexico resident, Buckley holds a master’s in human development with a concentration in women’s studies. She has facilitated support groups for girls in California and New Mexico. An activist for women’s rights, she has worked as a teen advocate in the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women’s Teen Abuse Prevention Project and has trained for the LA Commission’s Rape Crisis Hot Line team. Buckley has administered a three-year, science based drug and alcohol abuse prevention program in public middle schools of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
When Buckley wrote Choices, she meant it to be read and discussed not only by teen girls, but to open lines of communication between girls and their mothers, equally their fathers and brothers, even an entire community, for it takes a village to protect a young woman. Indeed, this is the line running through the novel. When 15 year old Kara MacNeill finds herself pregnant after being raped by a school jock at a party, she must confront her every fear in dealing with a moral and ethical dilemma. There is the rape itself. She must cope with the violation of body, mind and spirit that a person undergoes after a rape. To complicate matters, Kara’s mother is an impassioned pro-life activist who often has her daughter help in passing our flyers and joining in protests against abortion clinics. Surely, Kara will not find help in her dilemma at home. Time is of essence, however, as Kara searches for support in various places with varied results. The young rapist adds pressure to abort the fetus, for, as it turns out, she is not the first girl in school he has raped. The complicit and shamed silence in his female victims is something he has come to rely upon.
Choices addresses all variations and possible solutions to a problem too many adolescent girls and young women face. Is Kara in some manner responsible? Is a girl at a party who drinks too much accountable for what a boy does to her? Will a parent who has strong pro-life views feel the same way when a daughter has been raped? As simple as it can be to hold firm views when they apply to others, the insights Kara’s parents experience when the results of rape hit home are fascinating for the reader to witness.
This is a story about growing up, about being accountable and taking responsibility, about taking risks and being honest when honesty becomes a matter of life and death. This is a story about what it means to be a young not-yet-woman in a society that often puts the blame and the shame on the female (in no small part due to the views of women themselves about being “nice” and that “boys will be boys”) when sex becomes an act of force. Kudos to Buckley for speaking up.
To read an interview with Kate Buckley, visit this issue of The Smoking Poet's Feature YA Author Interview.