Book Review: ‘No Virgin’ by Anne Cassidy.

I received this ebook for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is no way affects my opinion of the book. Quotes in the following review may differ slightly from the final published version of the book.

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The beginning of this book was very slow and to be honest quite badly written. The main character was an embarrassment: she is socially awkward and overly hurt by friend situations that aren’t really situations at all. Early on in the book, she turns against Patrice, her so-called best friend – who is an extremely good, attentive friend to main character Stacey – because Patrice invites someone from one of her classes over her house without clearing it with Stacey beforehand.

Stacey completely overreacts and decides to bunk off school for no reason, despite clearly being a good student otherwise. Her outlook on life is juvenile:

The last time had been a month or so before, when I had been going to Patrice’s birthday celebration meal with her and some members of her family. A Chinese restaurant had been booked and it was a dress-up affair. I was the only one of Patrice’s friends who had been asked. I was excited about it for days(.)

Firstly, she was probably the only one Patrice invited because she knew Stacey would go into weirdo mode if she dared invite any outsiders. Secondly, she talks about this birthday meal like a small child would gabble about the first party they were attending. Sure, you’d be excited to go to your friend’s birthday, but the tone of this is so immature.

She’s massively weird about Patrice:

I imagined going to live at Patrice’s. I got on well with her parents and there was tons of room there. Why couldn’t I do that? Just until my A Levels were done, and then I could go to uni and live in halls. Then I remembered Shelley going round to Patrice’s the night before and the fantasy instantly fell apart.

WHY? Why can’t you just talk to Shelley and allow Patrice to be friends with both of you? WHY ARE YOU SO WEIRD?

Also, there’s no way she would last at uni. People don’t stand for that sort of behaviour there.

There are so many quotes that make me want to scratch my eyes out over Stacey. I mean, what is this:

It was the first time I had ever been in a black London taxi. My life was buses and Tubes or walking. I’d occasionally called a minicab for Jodie and the baby to go somewhere, and Patrice and I have used one a couple of times when we’d been out late.

So it’s NOT your first time in a London taxi then, because you’ve used them with Patrice. Then she says:

But I’d never stood on a pavement with my arm in the air trying to attract the attention of a London taxi driver. I’d have been too embarrassed, too awkward. I’d have apologised as soon as it stopped and not been able to say where I wanted to go.

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU WHY CAN’T YOU TALK TO TAXI DRIVERS THEY’RE NICE PEOPLE FOR THE MOST PART OH MY GOD.

People growing up in London tend to be pretty independent, so I just find it really unrealistic that she would be acting this way. I mean, who would be too embarrassed to ask a taxi driver to take them home?

After a while, this ridiculously naive characterisation does kind of work, because it juxtaposes so drastically with the way Stacey views the world after she has been raped. Her innocence beforehand throws her trauma afterwards into sharp relief.

It was the writing of the rape and the aftermath that saved this book. Up until that point, it felt like a teenager’s whinging, but the rape was very harrowing, felt very real, and was unexpected despite the fact that I knew it was coming. The victim-shaming from the perpetrators felt, sadly, very true-to-life and made me extremely angry:

…(W)e would make things uncomfortable for you. After all,’ he lowered his voice, ‘you weren’t a virgin, were you? You were already undressed. And am I right in thinking your sister had a baby when she was fourteen? These things won’t look good in a court(…)

It reminded me strongly of the appalling victim-shaming comments in the Stanford University/Brock Turner rape case, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cassidy took some inspiration from that.

Cassidy gave a very good representation of the terrible things that a rape victim might think and feel afterwards, blaming herself and wondering whether she might have ‘accidentally’ consented. This book may be a bit triggering for some readers, as the second half is quite distressing.

The novel talks clearly about consent and makes it clear that slut-shaming is not OK. However, the writing itself is not especially skillful and I cannot forgive the characterisation. In general, I was just really glad that this was a short book.

My Rating: 2/5

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