When Sandy is assaulted by one of Sandy’s best friend’s boyfriends, the consequences are worse than Sandy could have imagined. Instead of standing by Sandy, the friend takes the side of the boyfriend, and the assault is called into question. Desperate and unable to cope, Sandy turns to alcohol to numb the pain. Will anyone ever believe Sandy?
Laurie Gray’s well-meaning but ultimately misguided and ineffective book about sexual assault features a protagonist without an assigned gender. This novel is meant to illustrate the fact that sexual assault is not about sex, but the way it’s handled not only strains credulity: it also keeps readers at a great distance by keeping Sandy from ever becoming a fully-formed character. While it might work for some readers and definitely raises some good questions, it does so at a disservice to its own plot and characters.
Sandy is meant to be read as either male or female so that the reader doesn’t let prejudice about one sex or gender get in the way of the sexual assault. The problem is, the gender of Sandy sort of does matter to how people would react to the assault. If Sandy was female and assaulted by her friend’s boyfriend, wouldn’t that friend react differently than if Sandy was male? And if Sandy was indeed male, wouldn’t that itself raise some questions in Sandy about his sexuality if he was assaulted by another male? By leaving out this important aspect of Sandy’s character, Gray misses the mark of what she was trying to hit on.
There’s also the fact that none of the characters ever really come alive here. Sandy is kept at a distance from readers throughout the story, and Sandy’s descent into alcoholism over the span of like, a day, is completely ridiculous. While it’s nice to see Sandy’s parents stand up for Sandy, it’s hard to walk away from this one feeling as though any of the people were real at all. Give this one a pass–there are much better stories out there about sexual assault.
Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray. Luminis Books: 2013. Electronic galley accepted for review via publisher for 2013 Cybils.