Friday, 10 August 2018

Corrupt by Penelope Douglas

TW: I'll be discussing (or rather, ranting about) the sexual assault that happens throughout this book.

by Penelope Douglas

Summary: Erika -- I was told that dreams were our heart’s desires. My nightmares, however, became my obsession. His name is Michael Crist.  
My boyfriend’s older brother is like that scary movie that you peek through your hand to watch. He is handsome, strong, and completely terrifying. The star of his college’s basketball team and now gone pro, he’s more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than me. But I noticed him. I saw him. I heard him. The things that he did, and the deeds that he hid…For years, I bit my nails, unable to look away. 
Now, I’ve graduated high school and moved on to college, but I haven’t stopped watching Michael. He’s bad, and the dirt I’ve seen isn’t content to stay in my head anymore. Because he’s finally noticed me.  
Michael -- Her name is Erika Fane, but everyone calls her Rika. My brother’s girlfriend grew up hanging around my house and is always at our dinner table. She looks down when I enter a room and stills when I am close. I can always feel the fear rolling off of her, and while I haven’t had her body, I know that I have her mind. That’s all I really want anyway.  
Until my brother leaves for the military, and I find Rika alone at college. In my city. Unprotected. The opportunity is too good to be true as well as the timing.  
Because you see, three years ago she put a few of my high school friends in prison, and now they’re out. We’ve waited. We’ve been patient. And now every last one of her nightmares will come true.


So. This book was completely infuriating. It was also entertaining -- I'll give it that, but my god did it make me mad.

Michael was an abusive douchebag through like 95% of the book. He treated Rika like crap. He allowed other people to treat her like crap. He literally stood there and did absolutely nothing while his friends assaulted and sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions. Great love interest, right? No.

I'm all for dark and twisty romances, but all of that stuff I mentioned isn't attractive. It's toxic. And there was barely any redemption (which is part of the appeal of dark and twisty romances -- the idea that people can change for the better, that redemption is possible). Even after he screwed up massively (like really, really, really massively) he didn't even muster up a decent apology.

I also understand the appeal of bad boy love interests (I've liked my fair share of them outside of fiction too), but there is a world between being a bad boy and a guy who is just a bad person and most of the time, Michael fell into the latter category.  

Because of that, it made Rika really infuriating too. It made her seem like a complete doormat. Dude literally tries to ruin her whole life, does unforgivable things, allows his friends to hurt her and then asks her to promise she'll never say no to him (wtf?!)...and then worse, she just goes along with that. It just made her seem totally spineless.

So many scenes made me absolutely ragey. Like when they find out she'd been roofied and his reaction is to practically be mad at her for that and demand to know why she didn't tell anyone (not to mention the scene that follows where they basically peer pressure her into confronting her would-be rapist and it leads to her being almost raped again because they took so long coming to help her). I guess the scene was supposed to be empowering or something but it was just sickening.

And there's a scene where one of his best friends is literally sexually assaulting her (while she's 16, and he's nearly 20) and he sees it happening and doesn't stop it. His justification for this was "I'm not your saviour, you handled it yourself" and just... No. That is not okay. Again, I think it was aiming to be empowering and to have a "you don't need a man to rescue you, you can do it yourself vibe" but that doesn't change how awful it made his character by having him stand back and allow it.

Would he have stepped in if she wasn't strong enough to overpower the guy? Maybe. I don't know. But even if he would have, that doesn't make it okay. He also remains friends with the guy, had zero issue with him for doing that...again, not okay (the guy makes really awful rape jokes too and his friends just brush it off like "welp, he probably hasn't acted on it, he's probably all talk, so we're good" -- like they're actually content being friends with someone who they think could be capable of that).

The way sexual assault and rape and consent is treated so flippantly in the book made me so beyond angry. Someone forcing you to kiss them, touching you, groping you against your will -- it's not okay. It is literally a crime and can be traumatising af, but this book treated it in a "well, it's not like it was rape" kind of way (when it was even acknowledged at all).

There's also a lot of "we're not going to hurt her" in the book...and then they proceed to hurt her over and over again and it doesn't even acknowledge that sexual coercion is rape and that is a form of hurt too. If you deliberately pressure and blackmail someone into having sex with you, and make it seem like they have no choice or you'll do something bad to ruin their life or hurt someone they care about -- that is not consent. That is coercion and sex without consent is rape. Pretty much 99% of the guys in this book are sexual predators.

Beyond that, the book also introduced me to a new pet peeve: writing what song the characters are listening to. I hated that so much and it stuck out like a sore thumb the whole time (it really dates the story and makes it seem more "hey, the author likes this song and listened to this playlist while writing" than "this is a song the characters would believably be into and the mention fits organically into this scene"). It happened a lot in this book, and it wasn't done in a natural way except for one scene where it made sense (because the characters were discussing music).

Basically, this book and these characters were absolutely infuriating. I don't think I've thoroughly hated a bunch of characters so much in a long time. 

In saying that, the book did hook me and it was entertaining even if I did want to punch all of the characters at least once (abuse is not sexy, allowing your friends to sexually assault and abuse a girl is not sexy, being controlling and condescending is not far as love interests go, Michael is toxic -- dude makes Christian Grey look like Prince Charming).

It wasn't all bad, there were some parts I did like, they were just thoroughly eclipsed by the stuff I didn't like.

This has been way more rant than review. At the end of the day, the book just wasn't for me. It hasn't made me write off Penelope Douglas as an author though, because it does take some talent to keep me turning the pages in spite of all the issues I had with the book, and I have enjoyed her previous books much more in the past and I'll probably enjoy more of her books in the future...this particular one just was not my cup of tea at all.

I don't know if I'll read the sequel or not. The sequel is about the character than angered me the least (and the one that redeemed himself the most -- though that's not saying much, the bar was pretty low) so it might work out a bit better for me. We'll see. I'd rate the book 1.5 stars out of 5.


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