Romanticised abuse in CRAZY HOUSE (novel)

Join us. Start posting.
- Share examples of romanticised abuse you've seen in books, TV shows, or films.
- This blog series explores and draws attention to themes of abuse in fiction. I will discuss sexual assault, abusive relationships, and rape. I will infrequently explore those topics in depth as the fictional example requires it. Please read on with care. These subjects could be triggering.

Last year I read Crazy House by James Patterson, a YA dystopia thriller. I ended up hating the book (you can read my rant review HERE) but the main issue I found with the story was the author's handling of certain topics, namely rape and sexual abuse. 

On pages 98-99 we are told that a teacher has raped one of the main female characters. Without warning, without build-up, without even a hint, we are smacked in the face with this disgustingly written scene: 

I actually felt the blood draining from my face.
"Don't you talk about my ma," I said in a low, shaking voice. Something inside me came undone and I went on, not sounding like myself at all. "You're not the only one who can make threats. Remember when you pushed me into the supply closet? Remember shoving your tongue down my throat?"
Mr. Harrison got red, his eyes narrowing.
"I'm sure you do, because I bit the hell out of it," I went on. "But Becca wasn't so lucky, was she? No, you actually got her alone that time. And you forced yourself on her! You're just a rapist! Not any kind of teacher."
"You listen here," Mr. Harrison began, striding towards me angrily, "The girl had it coming to her! Just like you!"

My main problem with this scene? Rape is used as a plot device

To make it worse, it's there for shock value. Cassie tells us that Mr. Harrison raped her sister - Becca - and the information comes in the form of a flippant outburst. Yes, the information is obviously horrifying, but it's handled terribly. For goodness sake, Cassie shouts out the accusation like she's having a spat with a friend! The author is splaying the details of a rape scene across the page; they bring it up as if Patterson just thought "hey, how can I make Mr. Harrison a bad guy? Oh wait! I know!" So he hastily writes in that exchange, and doesn't worry about making sure there are proper consequences. And there aren't consequences. Cassie (the narrator) doesn't mention it again, and the scene quickly moves onto other topics. 

I am revolted. I cried when I first read that scene, and now I just get furious. Not only is rape just "thrown in" out of nowhere, but it's just as easily dismissed once it's provided the plot with some drama (I feel sick writing that, but that's honestly how it comes across). 

Read pages 136 and 178

"You were pregnant?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I didn't want to admit it - even to myself. But I was.......A teacher back home - he raped me.....Anyway, I got pregnant. Well, now I'm not."

I had to tell her. " know, Harrison.... Anyway. I got pregnant."
My sister looked appropriately horrified......"Oh, honey. I'm so sorry."......
"Yeah. But a couple days ago I had a miscarriage. I got kicked really hard. And they operated on me to make sure it was all gone."......
"Someone kicked you?"

The author obviously needed something to keep the plot moving, so he decided to have Becca get pregnant as well. It's like he wants to "milk the incident for all it's worth", which sounds absolutely outrageous to say, but that's how it comes across. I'm sorry I have to share all this disgusting stuff, I truly am, but I cannot not criticise Patterson's flippant attitude towards what's happened to Becca. She was raped, she got pregnant, and miscarried after being beaten up. That. Is. Serious. It's beyond serious. It's psychologically - not to mention physically - damaging for life. It is not something you get over. 
And yet, the incidents are dismissed. The only tiny closure we get is this one female character eventually killing Mr. Harrison later on in the book; in a very quick, painless way. Which isn't all that satisfying, to be honest.  

Then there's Becca and how she's dealing with what's happened to her. Except, she doesn't deal with it. Patterson obviously thinks that what happened to her serves no purpose other than packing the plot with some conflict. Hey. I don't care if this is a brutal world. Someone who has experienced what Becca has experienced does not simply cope with it, get over it and not even mention it again

Someone who's endured what that poor girl has endured does not move on without pain, suffering, and unspeakable trauma. She will be emotionally and physically affected for the rest of her life, and for the author to never mention her ordeal again or even allow her a proper response to it is atrocious. It's not realistic, if anything else. And it's extremely offensive to people in real life who've undergone such horrors. 

This book mishandles rape and a miscarriage. 

They're skimped over, with the characters barely acknowledging them, and it all comes across childish, immature, and "oh well, it happened. Let's move on." I strongly think that if you're going to mention topics like that it's your responsibility to handle them well and make sure they get the closure, attention, and sensitivity they deserve. As it is, I'm furious and heartbroken at the way Patterson addresses the incidents. Even if the story world or characters don't give the topics proper handling, that in itself needs to be addressed in the story. But in this book it never is.

Crazy House was my second James Patterson read and it's my last. I will not support an author who deals with incidents of rape and female abuse as crudely, insensitively, and trivially as Patterson does. 

No comments