Monday, 24 February 2014

Twist Me by Anna Zaires

Twist Me
by Anna Zaires
Summary: Kidnapped. Taken to a private island.

I never thought this could happen to me. I never imagined one chance meeting on the eve of my eighteenth birthday could change my life so completely.

Now I belong to him. To Julian. To a man who is as ruthless as he is beautiful – a man whose touch makes me burn. A man whose tenderness I find more devastating than his cruelty.

My captor is an enigma. I don’t know who he is or why he took me. There is a darkness inside him – a darkness that scares me even as it draws me in.

My name is Nora Leston, and this is my story.
This review will be long (probably), ranty (definitely), and discussing rape. So, if that bothers you then maybe stop reading now? (tl;dr version of the review is that I didn't like the book.)

I saw this book show up on my goodreads feed because someone on my friends list gave it a glowing review.  It was described as a new adult book (which I've been meaning to read more of) and it has 165 five star reviews, 144 four star,  and 62 three star...only 20 were in the one or two star zone (sounds promising, right?).

I think I can safely say now that I pretty much disagree with the majority of those people. 

I kept reading the book in the hopes that I would find whatever it was that inspired all these high ratings, but for the first 3/4 of the book...well, I had so many issues with it that it's tempting to just angrily mash the keyboard and call that my review. 

The last quarter of the book? That's the only somewhat redeeming part but even that had things that made me so angry that I would've tossed the book across the room had it not been an e-book.

I'm not going to talk about everything that bothered me about the story, I'll just explain the small part that I did like and the one major thing that I hated that ruined the whole book for me.

I'll start with the positive: the last quarter of the book was fast paced and filled with action that kept me hooked (and there was way less of the awful sex scenes). If the thing I hated about the book had gone a little differently then it would've been okay but because it happened the way it did, it tainted any good parts. 

Although, it really bugged me that there wasn't mention of Stockholm Syndrome in the last part and that people kept commenting on Julian's attractiveness (professionals who, in those circumstances, should not say that to a victim or someone they suspect to be a victim of sexual assault).

Now, the thing that I hate: "questionable consent"

There was a disclaimer at the end of the summary for the book, warning that the book wasn't a traditional romance and saying that it included themes of questionable consent (click here if you're unsure of what would be considered questionable consent). 

Now, because the summary and reviews made it clear that this was a book about kidnapping (reviews described it as a "classic fall-in-love-with-your-kidnapper" story and "slightly dark romance"), I assumed that meant that Stockholm Syndrome was what made it questionable. SS definitely puts any sexual relationship into the questionable consent zone (and I've read books like that before).

The last quarter of the book, I'd say their relationship was kind of in the questionable consent category. But before that, the majority of the scenes were rape. Nothing "questionable" about it...the first sex scene was definitely rape.

If a girl says no, it's rape. If she is crying and begging the guy not to do it, it's rape. If he threatens her or the life of someone she cares about if she doesn't do what he wants, it's rape. If he makes it clear to her that he will do what he wants no matter what she says, it's rape. If she tries to run away and he won't let her leave, it's rape. Even if he makes it physically pleasurable for her or her body reacts to him unwillingly, it is still rape. Even if the guy is attractive or the girl is attracted to him, if she says no, then it is still rape. If the girl, after failing to make him back off with words or fighting or running, stops struggling, that doesn't mean it's not rape.

There is nothing "questionable" about a lot of the scenes in the book, it was rape.

This wasn't just a story about a girl falling for her kidnapper, it was a girl who fell for her rapist (although, she didn't fall for him, it was Stockholm Syndrome). And that ruined the book for me, because it was described as a romance (one of the reviewers even said she loved Julian and that he's the kind of character girls would want as their "book boyfriend" which I find utterly bizarre...I wouldn't consider a rapist to be a "book boyfriend" worthy character, and that's just one of his issues).

Now, I'm not a prude. I can read things in a book that I don't like without it ruining the overall story for me. But romanticized rape is different.

It made me really angry to see it called "questionable consent" as if that were some euphemism for rape. If a summary is going to include a disclaimer or some sort of trigger warning, or if someone wants to read or write a story about that, then fair enough, but call it what it is. 

When you don't, it just perpetuates the rape culture that says if a girl is physically attracted to a guy or if she has an involuntary pleasurable reaction to the act or if she stops struggling then it's not rape, which is not even close to the truth (seriously, if the story was exactly the same but he was described as being unattractive, I think people would have a wildly different opinion). 

There's even a character in the book, Beth, who acts like it's not rape even though she should know it is, she thinks that Nora should be grateful for what's happening to her (at one point, she even says that Nora is "very lucky to have someone like Julian" and she says that he wouldn't have to force a woman, as if the idea that he's a rapist is so ridiculous, even though she knows it's happening). Maybe the character was just screwed up but if that was the case, the book should've acknowledged that better.  

And, it didn't even make sense that Julian would do that to her at all given his back story. The kidnapping...I could understand him being that kind of crazy, but when his and Beth's back stories are revealed it just becomes baffling that he would turn into a rapist too (unless his attitude is "it's only okay when I do it" which is just ljnkfhblkb).

Just so we're clear, I'm not attacking the people that liked the book or the author, because I know writing something or liking it in fiction doesn't mean you condone it in real life and they're probably all lovely people. It's just, the reviews were the main reason I read the book and I was just baffled at the things they said--or didn't say--after having read the book myself (which is why I'm mentioning them).

I guess my issue is sort of two issues. It bothers me that the story, the disclaimer, and the reviews, don't properly acknowledge well that Julian is a rapist (I probably wouldn't have read it if I'd know that). And the fact that he raped her made me unable to like the book, because it was supposed to be a romance (a dark/twisted romance, sure, but romance all the same--it's like seeing a book about domestic violence being portrayed as romantic).

I thought Fifty Shades of Gray was bad, this was fifty shades worse. I'd rate it 1 star out of 5. If you still want to read it, that's fair enough, but just be warned that it's not just "questionable consent" in the book, it's rape most of the time so you can go into it knowing what to expect.

If you want to read a book that portrays Stockholm Syndrome really well, maybe check out Stolen by Lucy Christopher instead (I was kind of expecting this book to be a sort of New Adult version of Stolen).


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