There are so many sharks circling around young girls- in the streets, online, and in their very own “safe” schools- it truly makes me sick!
Dr. Gregory Copeland, chair of the English department, now a married father, beloved, popular with parents, staff and students and for many years seducer of young, lonely girls. The past is about to come calling, karma is ready to collect from Dr. Copeland a pound of flesh! Caryn is an intern working at a newspaper, under her idol Jane, she composes an essay, exposing a secret from her past as a student at the prestigious school Windmere and the sexual abuse she suffered while there. They want to go forward and publish the essay in the paper, and Caryn is struggling, she knows it will ruin a life, divide the community. She isn’t a victim in the sense of the usual word, you can’t see her wounds, she wasn’t left bleeding to death somewhere in an alley or ditch. Just what is a victim composed of? She feels sorry for her abusers children, wife, and for all those people who are going to see their favorite teacher’s darkest side. Is it worth ruining so many lives over such a small transgression, one she feels complicit in, as so many young girls are made to feel? But what about the school, Windmere and it’s own complicity in turning a blind eye? What will her family think? Shouldn’t she have just put this all behind her?
Sometimes it takes one person to give other victims the courage to speak. Dr. Copeland has an eye for the girls that need something, whether it’s praise, attention, a shoulder to cry on, literature, and he knows how to manipulate them into sexual favors. 15 seems to be his lucky number, girls on the cusp of womanhood, still unsure in their developing bodies, just noticing male attention, both unwanted and sometimes welcome. Some stay silent, even from affluent families, hesitant to ‘bring shame’ upon their grand family name. Others know maybe they won’t be believed, but too- the girls believe this is love, deceived into thinking the shame is solely their burden.
Eva is a mother now, has kept her shameful secret from even her husband, and she must face the repercussions of omission in her life. It’s an interesting spin, I think, for the author to take on. That on top of carrying around the shame of having been manipulated as a young girl, Eva as a wife must too feel shame for ‘not being completely honest’ with her husband, appearing again as ‘deceptive’ through omission. Of course he feels wounded, spouses are supposed to share everything, no? But how is a woman to share all when she hasn’t come to terms with it herself? Jesse is a good man, there are good men in this novel, it’s not a ‘man- hating’ story. Of course, not all women are so lucky in real life. Many cultures over, the shame always seems the woman’s to wear.
Sasha’s fury is fueling her on. Far more angry than the others, the pain radiates off her skin still. He knew just how to work each girl into giving in. With Sasha’s bookish ways, lonely home-life, and lack of friends, Copeland knew how to win her trust. Sasha enjoyed it, the attention, the forbidden love that made her finally feel special, struggling with guilt because she began to seek him out too. He brought literature to life, those deep love stories with his words. That is how they hide, these abusers, knowing how to leave young naive victims hungry, both enthralled and disgusted with themselves. When things got too real for Sasha, a problem very ‘adult’ he tucked tail, shut her out and left her with the aftermath. The taint of it is still staining her soul, it’s time to see him brought down, it’s time to come together with other victims.
This special ‘club’ of victims, one no one ever wants to be a member of, come together under the support of Jane, a reporter whose big story becomes personal. The community is divided, and the support some people feel for Dr. Copeland, rallying behind him, is like a gut punch, like being victimized all over again. As the investigation picks up steam, it seems everyone has something to say, more stories come out from other former students, and it becomes eye-opening just how many girls are victimized, but let it go, seeming like such a ‘small thing’, like a creeping hand on the knee, or intimate, inappropriate private conversations. In a time when we teach our children to speak up if something happens, so much still does, because navigating an adult’s world and actions can get muddy in a young child’s mind. Women have a hard enough time exposing abuses, how much worse is it when a young girl is lured in and shamed by the pleasure she feels of attention? How does a girl expose and label something when she isn’t even sure anything has happened? Maybe in her naive mind she just ‘misinterpreted’ what the adult intended to say? Abusers know just how to lurk on the edge, they test the waters, they are always keeping themselves safe until they know they have control of the situation, then the arrogance is shocking, as with Sasha and her encounters with Dr. Copeland.
Why do cover-ups even happen, in the most progressive and prestigious institutions? Sometimes, the silence is worth keeping dirt off the illustrious school’s name, even if it means leaving a wolf in the mix. Some victims heal, some were broken before being further victimized by life and where it takes them. There is triumph, and tragedy. The important thing this novel does is open a conversation, it’s chilling to think that a mother or father may read this novel, and their own child could be experiencing such a seduction by a teacher, a coach, etc. These things are happening more than we think, just turn on the news.
Most women can remember being in school and I think at least one girl who bragged about being with an ‘older guy’, which seemed ‘star-crossed’ or exciting maybe. Maybe some of you were shocked, disgusted, envious? Ask any two people, male or female, if they think the young girl is complicit? There will be many who think she is, because we’ve forgotten how insecure and needy the young are. How adult they trick themselves into feeling, but an evolved mind should know adults should never cross that line. That with young girls, and let’s not forget boys too, it’s easy for someone more experienced to manipulate them, what place in time is lonelier and more confusing than your teenage years? It’s exciting to play at being a grown up. It happens to the wealthy and the poor, every ethnicity and social standing, there isn’t a child alive that it couldn’t happen to.
Sexuality can feel powerful too, in both boys and girls. Adult attention can feel both humiliating and empowering, it’s a strange time in life. To be both a child and adult, in everything happening with hormones, the mind becoming so much more aware, testing their sexuality, flirting with the edge, some get too far ahead before they are aware of the danger they’re in. But what of that adult, guiding them over the cliff? You hear it all the time, ‘well look how old he/she looks and acts.’ As if a teen with an adult body is game. Let’s really think about the victims here, because it is not the ‘adult.’
Provocative, a wonderful selection for any reading group. As important today as it will be tomorrow.
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Griffith Moon Publishing