(A Novel in Verse)
This searing and intimate novel in verse follows a sixteen-year-old girl coping with sexual abuse as she grapples with how to reclaim her story, her anger, and her body in a world that seems determined to punish her for the sin of surviving.
"This is more than a story about sexual violence—this book is about race, sexuality, love, and how anger can be a catalyst for healing."
—Gabrielle Union, bestselling author, actress, and producer
Sixteen-year-old Alicia Rivers has a reputation that precedes her. But there’s more to her story than the whispers that follow her throughout the hallways at school—whispers that splinter into a million different insults that really mean: a girl who has had sex. But what her classmates don't know is that Alicia was sexually abused by a popular teacher, and that trauma has rewritten every cell in her body into someone she doesn't recognize. To the world around her, she’s been cast, like the mythical Medusa, as not the victim but the monster of her own story: the slut who asked for it.
Alicia was abandoned by her best friend, quit the track team, and now spends her days in detention feeling isolated and invisible. When mysterious letters left in her locker hint at another victim, Alicia struggles to keep up the walls she's built around her trauma. At the same time, her growing attraction to a new girl in school makes her question what those walls are really keeping out.
"[This] fierce and brightly burning feminist roar…paints a devastating and haunting portrait of a vulnerable young woman discovering the power of her voice, her courage, and her rage." —Samira Ahmed, New York Times bestselling author of Internment and Hollow Fires
Cole (The Truth About White Lies) pens a dynamic portrait of one teenager confronting trauma surrounding her sexual assault in this intense verse novel inspired by the Greek tragedy of Medusa. When 16-year-old white Alicia Rivers's religious best friend Sarah, also white, finds out Alicia has had sex, she terminates their friendship, resulting in slut-shaming from her peers. Home offers no refuge, as Alicia contends with her emotionally absent mother and brother. She finds solace in her food service job's mundane repetition, even as she struggles with a painful secret: that a widely beloved high school teacher sexually assaulted her. Blossoming friendships with charismatic Deja, who is Black, and gentle new student Geneva, who is Pakistani and white, set Alicia on a path toward healing, until she begins receiving anonymous letters revealing that she's not the teacher's only victim—and that someone else plans to step forward. Citing how abusers often leverage societal protection, emotionally raw verse critically portrays one teenager's experience dealing with the aftermath of assault, and provides a sharp look into cultures built on oppressing survivors' voices. Rendering the racially- and sexuality-inclusive female cast as both vulnerable and fierce, Cole boldly examines agency, bodily autonomy, and internalized misogyny. Ages 14–up. Agent: Patrice Caldwell, New Leaf Literary.