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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Review: Testimony by Anita Shreve



Title: Testimony 
Author: Anita Shreve 
Genre: Fiction - Drama 
Finished: August 4, 2009

In Testimony, Avery Academy is an elite private school for some of the smartest young people and most promising athletes. Three of these students, Silas, Rob, and J.Dot are popular, athletic, and intelligent, all with bright futures ahead of them. But all of that is destroyed by the events of a few minutes one night when drinking at a party gets out of hand. Caught on tape is the three boys having drunken sexual relations with a 14 year old girl who also attends the academy. Soon after being made, the tape falls into the hands of school Headmaster, Mike, who must decide what to do with the boys. It’s pretty clear from the start what sort of difficulties he is going to face. The story of the party and the aftermath is told through a variety of perspective. Everyone involved from students to parents to lunch ladies give their side, all except Rob, who is given one very significant part at the end of the novel. As the events unfold, you are witness to a number of different viewpoints, which all show different sides to how people deal with anger, fear, and sexuality. 

Testimony is about more than just the three boys, though, because the storyline exposes multiple relationships and secrets beyond the tape and the boys. The way the story is written is unique. Some of the chapters are in first person, some in second person, and some in third person. This is a bit hard to get used to, but after a while you get into the pace of the book and the switching of person throws you off less. And sometimes, like with the second person scenes of Rob’s mother Ellen, it feels surreal and dreamlike. Since she is in a state of shock throughout, I believe that this was intentional. For others, you are meant to put yourself in their shoes, and others, to watch and judge. This is a book that will leave you at war with yourself, as I did with me. You will question innocence and guilt, law and the nature of humans. You see that the boys are just boys, fallible and ultimately good. Do they deserve to have their entire lives ruined with a sexual assault charge? Do they deserve to lose their entire future for the events of one night? Is the girl to blame at least in part for wanting it; does this excuse what the boys did? Or should she be blameless because she is so young? Does the fact that she was consenting matter at all? You want to protect the child, but... who is the child? They are all children and you want to protect them all, even the girl, who comes across through her parts as very superficial and flighty. It didn’t help that the victim cried rape at first and accused the boys of giving her a date rape drug, an excuse she cooked up to keep from getting in trouble with her parents when the tape was discovered. Naturally, putting the blame on the girl makes you feel guilty as the reader, as it did with me, and the thought of a girl so young being involved with boys so much older is frightening. After all, Silas, Rob, and J.Dot should have known better. They should have. But even good people sometimes make mistakes. Yet a mistake like this is, quite honestly, unforgivable? Or is it? You see? You will be at war with yourself. It is a hard one to think about. In the end, you sort of just wish that none of it had ever happened because it’s impossible to know who to blame, who to hate, and who to pity. I obviously very much enjoyed this book because it is very poignant, and it doesn’t shy away from a subject that is sensitive.

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