the word for yes by claire needell


the word for yes by claire needell -> goodreads

this book had a lot of potential. it's about three sisters who aren't exactly close (one has left for college, the other is something of a mean girl, and the third is shy and quirky), and on top of that, their parents have just split up. then one of the girls is raped at a party one night.

i really wouldn't consider that last bit a spoiler. this book is called 'the word for yes' and has a ghost of the word 'no' in the background, which was an obvious hint to me that this book would be about some kind of sexual assault and consent.

i liked this premise a lot. i feel like there really is not enough books about sexual assault and rape for young adults, especially not shown like this. the word for yes is memorable in that way, at least. it showed that rapists can be anyone, and captured the feelings of guilt and shame the victim must live with afterwards so well.

unfortunately, the execution of the story is where it fell flat. whenever needell switched between the points of views of the sisters, it felt choppy. i didn't care for jan's (the oldest sister, the one who's just starting college) story at all, and it felt disjointed to go from melanie's view to erika's, i also felt that, for a book centering around teen rape, it didn't actually focus on that aspect as much. it was like whenever we got to the rape victim's pov, needell remembered that she was raped, and threw in a lot of rambling about how she felt. the feelings were all completely realistic and understandable, but they felt so out of place in context.

needell also writes emotions incredibly well in this book. jan's struggle with her long-distance boyfriend and maintaining the relationship, erika's helplessness, melanie's anger. especially melanie's anger. i have anger issues as well, and reading about melanie's thoughts and feelings was a little bit shocking. these are all things i've felt so many times - the urge to hurt others (physically or emotionally). simply be mean, etc, were so real to me.

overall, i'd rate this book a 3/5. it wasn't anywhere near as good or thought-provoking as i'd hoped it would be, but i also realize that i'd started this book with very high expectations. the writing didn't always flow like it should've, but everyone's perfectly-captured inner struggles and frustrations really stole the show here.

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