This post will contain spoilers for both ‘No Virgin’ and ‘No Shame’ by Anne Cassidy. I’d like to thank Hot Key Books, for accepting my requests to review both of these books on NetGalley, and to thank NetGalley for the service that they provide.
“You have to go to the police,” she said.
“Because it was my own fault!”
“That’s a ridiculous thing to say. Did you ask him to rape you?”
“Did you tell him to stop? Did you say no?”
“Then how can it be your fault?”
‘My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.’
Anne Cassidy refuses to hesitate. The first line establishes exactly what happened and what the duology is going to be focused upon. Stacey shares that she’s writing her story at the advice of her best friend, Patrice, before she takes us back to the days leading up to her rape.
When Stacey and her sister Jodie have a fight on Stacey’s birthday, Stacey leaves home. She can’t stand being in the house for a minute longer. Her personal space has been invaded, and Jodie has mocked her dreams of going to the London College of Fashion. Meanwhile, their mum just sat back and let it happen, not seeming to understand why Stacey’s as upset as she is. It’s disrespectful.
Stacey heads to Patrice’s, hoping she can stay there. However, she learns that her best friend lied to her about being busy dying her hair. She’s actually hanging out with Shelly, who Stacey was already jealous of. Feeling betrayed by everyone, she stays at her dad’s apartment, grateful that him and his girlfriend Gemma are away.
The next morning, Stacey heads to a cafe to grab breakfast before school. In the cafe she meets Harry, a boy from a private school who gives her his card, drawing a shoddy heart on the back. Despite the fact that she’s known Harry for less than an hour, Stacey is compelled to text him to see if they can hang out later in the day.
Harry knows about her interest in fashion and arranges for her to meet a buyer at Selfridges. Suddenly, Stacey’s dreams don’t seem so unreachable. Harry kisses her on the escalator as they approach the meeting, filling her with confidence. When he asks if she wants to stay in the flat that his brother is looking after, she agrees.
Despite coming on strongly, Harry rebuffs her advances. Stacey’s flattered, believing he wants a future for them. She learns his true intentions the next day, though. His brother enters the room when they’re close to having sex. Harry leaves, allowing his brother, Marty, to rape Stacey.
‘No Virgin’ makes a great statement about the nature of consent. Stacey is eager to have sex with Harry, and she gives him her consent. However, Marty then uses that against her, saying that she obviously wanted sex and it wasn’t like she was a virgin, anyway. There’s a huge difference between wanting sex with a specific person and wanting sex with anyone. This is also explored in Louise O’Neill’s ‘Asking For It’ (which I reviewed here), explaining the comparisons made between the two titles.
I appreciated Anne advocating calling Rape Crisis, which is good advice. If you’d like to read more about their services, visit them here. I did think it was a naive to suggest taking a pregnancy test exactly two weeks after the rape, though. Some pregnancy tests would give accurate results that early, but it would be safer to wait until a missed period to have more certainty.
However, the story feels painfully unfinished. Both ‘No Virgin’ and ‘No Shame’ are under 200 pages long, and I feel as though it would have made far more sense to release them as one book. This story ends with Stacey phoning the police, and though that’s a big step for any rape victim to make, if people only read the first installment they don’t get any information about how the procedure works. It doesn’t work as a standalone, so if you’re planning to give this book a go, you need to be prepared to read the sequel too.
Speaking of the sequel…
‘Members of the jury would think of a girl who carried condoms around in her bag. Would they see her as sensible? Keen to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases? Or that was she was slag, always ready for sex with anyone who wanted it?’
‘I am Girl X and I was raped.’
‘No Shame’ begins nine months after ‘No Virgin’. It’s the week before the trial against Marty begins. Stacey gets anonymity, becoming ‘Girl X’.
The trial takes place over a week. For the first three days, Stacey gives evidence. Marty takes to the stand on Thursday. On Friday, the jury make their verdict, deciding whether Marty is guilty or not guilty.
Anne Cassidy deeply explores the experience of rape victims taking legal proceedings against their rapists, detailing the examination and cross-examination which leaves Stacey baring her soul on the stand. Stacey decides not to attend court on Thursday, meaning that we miss Marty’s interrogation. It would have been interesting to see what Anne Cassidy would have made him say… But I’m glad we didn’t have to listen to a word out of the smug bastard’s mouth.
With most young adult books being between 300 and 400 pages long and a huge section of ‘No Shame’ being a recap of the events of the first book, this further establishes my belief that it should have been one book.
This installment was far better than ‘No Virgin’, though. Too often, young adult novels focus on the event of the rape rather than the victim’s life afterwards. It was nice to see a different approach, and it was obvious that Anne Cassidy had gone to impressive lengths to research the court procedure.
Of course, the not guilty verdict infuriated me. However, this happens frequently in real life cases. It would have seemed too easy if Marty had been found guilty straight away! The end of the book shows him getting his comeuppance, though. It emphasises the importance of legal proceedings. You might inspire other women to come forward, to feel brave enough to share their stories. This is particularly relevant following the recent #MeToo trend.
This is a solid duology. Yes, I strongly believe it should have been one book instead of two, but as long as you read both installments you’ll get the full story. I’m glad I waited until ‘No Shame’ was published to read ‘No Virgin’. It would have been impossible to wait a year to finish Stacey’s story, and would have taken away from the impact of Anne Cassidy’s work.
If you enjoyed Louise O’Neill’s ‘Asking For It’, give this series a go. You could easily read both installments in a day.
Overall, I give ‘No Virgin’ and ‘No Shame’ 3.5 stars.