Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review: Canary

Author: Rachele Alpine
Published: August 1, 2013
Paperback, 400 pages
5 Gold Stars

(summary from Goodreads)

Staying quiet will destroy her, but speaking up will destroy everyone.

Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete. 

But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

Canary tells a hard story exactly how it is. There is no build up to an event like assault, it creeps into your life unknowingly and steals a part of you. Kate Franklin's life is exactly how she wants it to be. She is going to a new school where her mother's death doesn't follow her around every corner, and she has great new friends and a boyfriend on the basketball team. From afar, it seems perfect, but up close she's breaking. Her dad cares more about the basketball team he coaches than her, and her brother is struggling on his own and there is no way for her to help him. To Kate, it's just hardships that come with high school. She would never expect someone to take advantage of her, and she could never expect what happens after. 

What I think I loved most about this book is that I knew going into it that Kate is assaulted at a party, but there is no telling when that is going to happen in the book. Just as it is in real life, everything seemed perfect until it happened and suddenly nothing was the same. The assault is one of the main themes in the book, but it does not own this novel. Kate's life as she's trying to put the pieces back together after her mother's death fill the pages with hopes, fears, and open honesty. Kate writes for a blog which breaks up the scenes quietly yet dramatically, giving us a deeper look into her mind. She experiences many things for the first time, not all good, and I quickly fell in love with her voice and her pain. By the time the assault happened, I knew so much about Kate, yet I wasn't sure if she would be able to do what she had to do.

Every character stood out to me. I disliked every character at least once in the book, making each of them feel real. People make mistakes, people take the wrong sides, and if that doesn't happen in a book than it doesn't feel right. Kate is by far not perfect, neither is her perfect coach of a dad or her star athlete boyfriend. What matters is how you fix what you've done or how you reacted that makes you a good person. Privilege is a key factor in this book. Most of the characters make the mistake of thinking they are entitled to what they do, including the assault. It's easy not to see what's happening or to ignore it just because athletes are involved. It's a telling tale of what happens when we put the popular kids on pedestals and allow them to do whatever they please. Canary shows the hard truth about popularity, high school, and most of all, privilege. I was rooting for Kate the whole time and I couldn't be happier with the ending if I tried. It was a nice change from what I'm used too in YA and I think it was needed.

Subjects like this can be hard to master. There is a fine line between getting it right and going overboard. Alpine told what she needed to tell and left it at that. It was simple, clear, and heartbreaking. I have not been assaulted, nor have I known anyone who has been, but I know how I act when I read or watch it being portrayed. Canary captures the fear, guilt, and aftermath like a real victim, the weight of the act baring down on Kate. There are a lot of books about rape and assault, but this one stands on its own. Kate does not back down and I think that's an important lesson to teach girls, women, anyone. If you let someone get away with what they've done, than they've won. You need to fight back. You need to speak up.

"I woke over and over again, relishing the first moments when I'd forgotten what had happened, those two, three, four seconds when things stayed okay, right before the world slammed back into me, the heavy wooden stake of memory too close to my scarred heart."

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