The Word for Yes

256p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062360496.
Gr 9 Up—Sisters Jan, Erika, and Melanie Russell have never been close. Eldest Jan is less present as she prepares for her first year at Brown. Effortlessly beautiful Erika with her science know-how and low social cognition has always been the beloved oddity in the family. Youngest Melanie, at 15, is still figuring out where she fits with her high-achieving parents and sisters. Things only get worse when Melanie's parents separate and her father moves from their Battery Park City apartment all the way to Hong Kong to research his latest book. Melanie expects to have a good time at a hot Halloween party despite Erika's presence. Instead, after drinking too much spiked punch, Melanie is sexually assaulted by Gerald, a boy who claims to love Melanie even though she has always kept him at a distance. In the wake of the rape, Erika is sure the crime should be reported while Melanie is desperate to get back to normal. Jan, away at Brown, struggles with how to go from being an overachieving high school student to what she quickly fears might be a mediocre college freshman. Written in third person, this debut alternates chapter viewpoints to follow each sister and even Gerald throughout the novel. While the book joins Aaron Hartzler's What We Saw (HarperCollins) and Nancy Ohlin's Consent (S. & S., both 2015) in the important conversation about rape and sexual assault, it fails to add anything new to that discussion and falls short compared to classics such as Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak or Chris Lynch's Inexcusable. This work ultimately lacks the depth to offer anything but a quick read that takes on too much.
VERDICT While this should be applauded for attempts to thoughtfully discuss issues surrounding rape and includes some level of diversity, this novel is ultimately too slight to be anything but a forgettable issue-driven story.

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