Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Maybe I Will
Luminis Books, 2013
$14.95, Softcover (Simultaneously in hardcover too)
Description: It’s not about sex. Sandy is a happy high school student until the day that rough housing with Cassie’s boyfriend, Aaron, leads to an act of sexual assault. Sandy doesn’t know what to do—was the act even assault if it wasn’t “real” sex? When Sandy tries to turn to Cassie and Troy for support, Sandy finds that best friends can desert you in your time of need. The only thing that seems to be around to help Sandy get through the pain is the alcohol which Sandy gets by stealing and lying, especially when the people who are supposed to believe you and help you (parents, counselors, police officers) won’t even listen to your side of the story. Luckily, there is one shining moment—getting the lead as Peter Pan in the school play and meeting an older girl, Shimika, who is open to listening and believing Sandy’s side of the story.
Opinion: It’s not about sex. This is the tag line to the wonderfully written Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray who happens to bring years of experience as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney dealing with crimes against children to the background of her story. The shocking twist of this realistic novel isn’t a plot twist—it is a stylistic one. It’s not about sex—not the act itself or the gender of the victim. Readers never find out if Sandy is a Sandra or a Sanford—“Sandy’s” sex is never hinted at. This is mentioned on the back cover and in an author’s note at the back of the book. When I received this ARC I thought it sounded good and was a clever twist to a story about sexual assault. As I was reading it I found that I was switching in my reading and viewing Sandy as a boy and as a girl and how the story can be read in both ways. After I read it, I knew I was going to have to give it to my teens ASAP in pairs so they could read it together. The catch? I covered up all mentions to Sandy’s gender being undetermined and had them read it blind. After, I asked them if Sandy was a girl or a boy. So far four of my teens have read it and had their minds blown! The story is very good in representing how when it comes to sexual assault it isn’t about sex—it should be all about the person who is the victim and their well being. It was sad to see Sandy’s friends abandon Sandy for various reasons—Cassie not believing that Aaron would do such a thing and Troy, being in love with Cassie, hoping that she’ll eventually leave Aaron and he can get with her, who doesn’t want to ruin his chances with her in the future by believing Sandy. The act of sexual assault is a simple one and it is described in a matter of fact way that isn’t cheapening of the event but is still shocking at the same time. Overall, the book brings up a lot of good talking points in terms of the whole gender angle along with how Sandy handles the situation (drinking and stealing). It is also shocking how the adults who should be helping Sandy tend to look down on the situation as well and aren’t there to really help.
Here’s what some of my teens had to say:
Haley, 17, says, “Maybe I Will is a freaking awesome book about real teen struggles that really engages readers and allows them to connect with the characters. Sandy faces a sexual assault and is too scared to admit it to anyone and instead keeps it locked inside which leads to drinking to take away the pain. But there is hope. The cover was kind of simple but something about it grabbed my attention. It reflected the contents somewhat well since Sandy is a big drama geek and getting the part of Peter Pan in the school play was an important aspect of the novel. The most compelling part of the book was Sandy’s struggle with the sexual assault from Aaron which leads to losing Cassie and Troy as friends. Also Shimika’s past that she keeps from Sandy about her own relationship with Aaron. I was not disappointed at all with this book. I really enjoyed this book and want to own a copy. The ending was good. I was glad that Sandy and Shimika make up. I do have to comment on one thing though. My advisor for this project was intrigued with this book when it came in and so she read it in a day. She then approached me and another teen, Sarah, and told us a new ARC came in that was really good and she wanted both of us to read it at the same time. What we didn’t know was the big twist of the book—Sandy’s sex. Since it mentioned this on the back cover and the last page where the author talks about it our advisor actually covered those spots with construction paper so when Sarah and I read it we didn’t go into it knowing that Sandy could have been a girl or a guy. When we both finished the book she asked us our thoughts and then said, “Was Sandy a boy or a girl?” My mind was blown! It was like everything changed! All of a sudden I realized that it was never mentioned and the interesting thing was that I read Sandy as a boy and Sarah had read Sandy as a girl. I definitely want to go back and read it again knowing the care the author took making sure not to reveal Sandy’s gender.”
Sarah, 15, says, “Maybe I Will tells the story of Sandy. Sandy gets sexually assaulted by her friend’s boyfriend, Aaron. It tells how Sandy goes about dealing with this experience—both the good and bad choices. I loved that the cover was a stage with a person standing on it. I think it symbolized how Sandy loves acting, which reflected the contents well. The most compelling part was when the cop (who is supposed to be a “good” guy and help people) went all ninja on Sandy for no real reason except that Sandy desperately wanted the notebook back. The scene was horrifying because the cop clearly had problems with Sandy and didn’t want to believe anything about Sandy’s sexual assault. She’s supposed to make the victim feel safe and instead seemed to make Sandy out as the bad guy. I was not disappointed. I loved the whole book. I really enjoyed the ending. While it kind of through me for a loop, I was like, “Yeah, I should have seen this coming.” I think I guessed that Sandy and Shimika end up together about one paragraph before it happened. OMG! This book blew my mind! My advisor received the ARCs of this book and liked how it sounded and decided to read it real quick. She went into it knowing that Sandy might be a boy or a girl. She really wanted some of us teens to read it and talk with her about it. So she gave me and my friend Haley two of the copies and gave us a few days to read it. However, where it said the whole thing about Sandy’s gender on the back cover and on the author’s page, she covered that spot up so we didn’t know it going into the story. She told us to read it and then she’d ask us one question. After we read it, we both talked about how we loved it and loved the ending and then our advisor asked, “Was Sandy a boy or a girl?” Haley and I sat there in dead silence for a few seconds in utter shock as we both realized that, yes, the author never mentioned it and never wrote “he” or “she” in the book. Haley read it as if Sandy was a boy; I read it as if Sandy was a girl. We immediately found ourselves not “arguing” our sides but talking about all the different points that pointed to Sandy being a guy or a girl. My mind is still blown! I really thought Sandy was a girl but now I’m not so sure. My only real complaint is I don’t think the book would have had as much of an impact if I had known going into reading it what our advisor knew—that the readers don’t know Sandy’s gender. I really think the marketers of the book shouldn’t have put any comments about it on the back of the book. Instead readers should just be allowed to read the book and then have that note at the end which should ask—Is Sandy a boy or a girl? It really makes the impact of the whole situation and reading experience change and be more meaningful if you go into thinking one thing and then realizing that it could be a whole other story!”
Keyahna, 16, says, “Drama is a huge problem in high school, even among friends. There are guys who can’t keep their hands off girls. Just think about the drama that starts off with lies and just gets bigger. Friends begin to not trust each other which lead to betrayal. Maybe I Will has all of these elements and more. I like the cover but I think it looks too much like a Broadway stage and not a high school auditorium. The most interesting part of the book was the problems that Sandy faces and the fact that Sandy’s friends don’t want to listen or don’t want to believe about Aaron’s sexual assault. I don’t really like that Sandy and Shamika kissed at the end. I felt that there were a few details that could have been moved around or even taken out. I decided to read this ARC after two of my friends read it and were raving about it. Our advisor had me and Katie read the book at the same time. She hid the fact that we wouldn’t know that Sandy was a girl or a boy going into the story (she covered up the spot on the back of the book that mentioned this). When she talked to us after we read the book we were both like, “Oh, we liked it!” or “Oh, we didn’t think Sandy would be a lesbian.” And then she told us the big twist when she asked, “Is Sandy a boy or a girl?” We were both shocked! We had read it like Sandy being a girl but the whole perspective of the book changed once we realized that it never was mentioned and that the story could be interpreted either way and brings up lots of questions. I think, if the gender question was kept from readers until after reading, this book would make a really thoughtful classroom/book club discussion choice."
Katie K., 15, says, “The cover is the perfect picture to this title. It looks like Sandy is making a choice on HER/HIS stage. Beforehand, my teen programmer read this book before me. She then covered up the back cover. My friend and I had no idea what we were going into but a small summary of the plot—Sandy gets sexually assaulted. She then told us she was going to ask us one question after the book was read. I read the book and really liked it. I felt that it was really raw, which you don’t find in many books. The way I read it, it told the story of a girl sexually assaulted. The question my programmer asked was: Is Sandy a boy or girl? *Mind Blown!* My mind ran through the whole story again. I had never even thought of that! Most teen books are written from the point of view of a girl. I thought this would be the same. Thinking of Sandy as a boy made more parts of the book flow. But it never tells you if he/she is a he or a she. That’s the part that messes with my mind the most! I feel this story is a perfect eye opening story. It shows you that this kind of stuff (sexual assault) happens to people. And by not telling you what gender Sandy is, it shows you it can happen to anyone."
Becca, 14, says, “This is the story into one teen’s struggle with drinking and how one small event can change your life forever. I thought the cover was great. I thought it was a perfect match for the book. The most compelling part was the struggle with drinking and whether to stop or keep going. The disappointing part was that we didn’t know if Sandy was a boy or a girl. This disappointed me because I feel like the character I know was a fake because of it. My advisor had me read it blind (she covered up the comments on the back about Sandy’s gender being unknown) and I will admit, when she asked me after I finished it whether Sandy was a boy or girl, I was just speechless! I couldn’t believe it. I had read it as Sandy being a girl and knowing that we don’t know Sandy’s gender gave the book a whole new meaning. Despite my disappointment at not knowing what gender Sandy was this was a great book and I would recommend it to many readers!”
*Thanks to Tracy Richardson at Luminis Books for providing an ARC of this title for the YA Galley Group project!*