Saturday, 28 May 2016

The V Girl by Mya Robarts

Goodreads 
363 pages, Kindle Edition, Published July 1st 2014

Goodreads synopsis:

In post-apocalyptic North America, rape and sexual slavery are legal. Lila Velez, desperately wants to lose her virginity before the troops visit her town and can take it away by force. She makes plans to seduce her only friend, Rey, the most attractive man in her town. Lila does not love him but he is the only man who has shown her true affection, an affection she is willing to take as a substitute of love.

Lila’s coping mechanism to her mother’s rape and kidnapping is her secret. A secret that will bring her closer to Aleksey, a foreign, broody man. Lila does not trust him because his links to the troops and his rough, yet irresistible appearance. Aleksey offers Lila an alternative to her plans, a possibility that terrifies her…and tempts her in spite of herself. 

All the while Lila will have to find a way to live in the constant company of death, slavery, starvation, sexual abuse and the danger of losing the people she loves the most.

Due to mature content, this book is intended for +18 readers.


 4 Stars

This book is brutal. I hardly know where to even begin because there's just so much I want to say and The V Girl brings to mind so many feelings and issues and heavy topics that deserve more than just a book review. I found this book perchance and bought it from Amazon, then read it in about 24 hours. I even stayed up past 4 AM reading. I don't do that very often for a book anymore.

Now, first off, why 4 stars instead of 5? There were a few things in the story that bugged me, a couple of things that felt a little "convenient" maybe, and one instance where I felt just a little messed with and confused, so I reserve that last star for those issues. To mention them in detail means spoilers, so I will bring them up at the very bottom of the review and you can read if you want but I don't want to spoil the book for those who haven't read it yet.

Lila is 18 years old and lives in an incredibly volatile dystopian and fractured United States with her father, and 11 year old twin sister and brother. Her brother suffers from fibrosis, and her father is a doctor who develops pills and medical aids for the victims of sexual assault. Now I don't think I've explained that correctly because to do that I have to state that in this world, rape is something that happens frequently and is not punished. In fact, it's legal and encouraged. So Lila's father is doing a service to those who know they WILL be raped, to prevent pregnancy and ease physical pain. It's chilling just thinking about it. 

Lila is a virgin, a "V-girl." She wants to lose her virginity before it is taken from her, but she also wants to have a connection with the person she has sex with for the first time. She doesn't want just anyone, so at first she propositions her best male friend, Rey. Rey is religious, though he had a relationship with a girl named Angie, whom he loved very much. Angie is no longer in the picture, but Rey still pines for and loves her. Lila attempts to seduce Rey, but things don't work out as planned. 

Amidst Lila trying to figure out how to lose her virginity, she faces recruitment (and violent deflowering) by the soldiers that will invade her city in a short period of time, so a very real threat hangs over her while still trying to navigate this brutal world. Her home is bombed and she and her family relocated with the help of a towering former soldier, Aleksey. He's blond, older, strong as an ox, amazingly tall, muscular and sexy. And he wears a red cape.

                                                                                                                                       I'll just leave this right here.


He's also brutish, quiet, and looks like he hates everyone all the time. Lila's first meeting with Aleksey is actually a bit comical which took the edge off the decidedly sexual flavor of the encounter. Basically she falls on him, butt-first. Now that's funny. Once the shock wears off though, there is a definite attraction between them that we see play out through the story.

There are so many things I like about this book. It's really well knit together. There are only a few spots I felt strayed off kilter, and for the most part this world is well thought-out and actually makes sense. Mya Robarts is excellent at world building and I found almost everything in this dystopia believable. There are scenes of horrific torture and killing that she could have shied away from or used softer language to describe, but her technique here is key. You simply can not gloss over these acts or make them in any way less or easier to bear than they are. They're meant to make you sick, make you cringe, make you feel uneasy. And Mya does this in spades. The writing is raw and visceral and yes, you will feel disturbed and pretty icky. You may even wonder, "Why did she have to go there?" Then you answer with why, because you know why. It is the cold reality of Lila's world made that much more tangible as your stomach turns.

The balance between characters is excellent, and we get just enough of each to stay interested and invested, but we don't stray far from Lila and her mission, either. Everyone present in the book plays a part that could not be excised without feeling their absence. I like how deftly she's placed the characters just where they needed to be at all times. Aleksey's backstory is not revealed until just the right moment, so the conversation feels natural and unforced. 

The politics of the times are woven into the story well and don't become too heavy handed or muddled. Essentially this story is a romance, focusing on Lila's sexual relationships with Rey and Aleksey, and her virginity is a focal point of the book. There's a lot of sexual talk, a lot of detailed fantasies. A few points really stretch believability (was she more worried about the assault aspect or the fact that she wanted to be emotionally connected to the person she lost her virginity to? Sometimes it was hard to tell. She could have easily broken her own hymen and thus lost her virginity and made herself "sullied" so the witches (women who could supposedly tell if a girl was a virgin by touching her ARMS) would pass her by, but she doesn't even seriously consider this as a viable and logical option.) Yes, I just used parentheses inside of parentheses right there.

Now for the bits that bothered me, so you may want to skip this part if you're sensitive to SPOILERS

I thought at first that Rey had already consented to Lila's sex plan, and didn't realize that she hadn't actually let him in on it until she was about to "pounce." 

Azalea (love the name) is only 11 years old yet she speaks like an adult. I know that the circumstances for this are laid out, but still feel that an 11 yr old is still only 11. Azalea spoke at times as if she were at least 16 or older. Maybe she is more mature because of her surroundings, but she seems to lack innocence or a childlike sense to her. She seems more hardened than is believable, but again, this is a perception thing. It felt weird hearing a little child talk about sex and things the way she did. Lila also treated her as if she were an older teen rather than a child. 

I had a problem with Lila mentioning how Aleksey reminds her of her mother's attackers. I just feel she would not have pursued him at all if that were really the case. The description of her mother's attack was absolutely gut-wrenching and incredibly disturbing. I can't imagine that witnessing something like that and those who perpetrated it wouldn't leave an indelible mark in your mind against anyone even slightly resembling the attackers. I had someone hurt me when I was 12 and I could not even stand the sight of their initials because I was brought back to that painful place. Lila is somehow able to state over and over how Aleksey looks like one of the rapists/killers, but get past it easily enough to fall for him, anyway.

**BIG FAT SPOILER COMING**

When we finally witness Lila losing her virginity to Rey, we are given details that lead us to believe that this actually happened, but later find out it did not. On one hand I like that we get to experience Lila's first time with Rey, but we also experience her first time with Aleksey (maybe an excuse to add one more sex scene?) just to see how it would have played out with each character, but the only real first time was Lila with Aleksey. This threw me a little, and I felt manipulated and weird about it. 

The biggest problem I had with the story is that Aleksey has a kink he refers to as "C.N." Consensual non-consent. (Oncoming rant.) Lila understandably rails against this, feeling crushed when she finds out that the man she loves wants to have the experience of rape without the actual legal definition of it. This is very tricky territory and leads to examinations of what is right and wrong within sexual contexts. Is everything ok just because it brings you sexual pleasure? Should things be off limits? Which things? To which extent? Is Aleksey a rapist at heart, only unwilling to take the actual step into it because he doesn't want to align himself with those who have done it that way? How far off from a rapist is he if he wants to experience raping Lila, but just not ruin their relationship or feel guilty about it after?

 It seems too easy to say oh, it's a kink, that's all it is, harmless. Lila's first visceral reaction is honest, but later we see her in a long term relationship with Aleksey and she states, "I trust him so much that I'll try C.N. with him. Soon." Sorry, but no. 

       Lila's reaction to C.N. felt like this:                                                                            Instead of this:


I feel that rather than trusting him, she is acquiescing to him, putting his "kink" ahead of her actual feelings on the matter. Instead of saying, "Sorry, Aleksey, but that's not something I want or agree with and I can't reconcile rape with playing that you're raping someone, especially someone you love," Lila does what SO MANY women do, and that is they push aside their own feelings as not important or inaccurate or worse, hysterical. "Oh," Lila seems to say, "I was just freaking out over nothing. Of course play rape isn't rape and just because Aleksey wants to see me struggling against him and saying no and looking frightened doesn't mean he would want to REALLY rape me or anyone else." It's a "have your cake and eat it, too" situation that I felt pandered to the whole dynamic where women continually push aside their objections and allow men to use them to fulfill and enact fantasies and "kinks" because we all want to please men all the time. 

There's no really good reason (logically speaking) that Aleksey should EVER need to have his "C.N." This could remain a fantasy or be suppressed, even. But he's not asked to do that. I just wonder why not? Why can't a man be expected to leave a fantasy in his mind only and respect the human being in his life enough to not feel his orgasm has to override her feelings on the subject? Lila did not give a good enough reason for changing her mind on this subject, and I'm very disappointed that she seems to have allowed herself to agree to it just because Aleksey wants it. I love/trust him so much that all of a sudden my repulsion doesn't matter, I was just overreacting?




 NO. If he loved her like he says he does, he would not ask her to do C.N. because 1) she despised the concept of it and 2) it is not necessary. How many women have decided they do not want to do something or don't enjoy it and end up doing it because the guy wants it and won't let up about it? Like a whiny toddler, they have a tantrum until they get their toy. This is not how grown men should act, and women should not allow them to do it by handing them the toy just to shut them up or keep them around. This part of the book can be extremely triggering, so proceed with caution. /rant



END SPOILERS

Overall this was a fast read, gripping and brutal and at times stomach churning. I keep using the word brutal because there is no better description for the world in which Lila survives and the actions taken against the good people of that world. The level of barbarism is on par with ancient ways of torture and punishment,and arbitrary and hypocritical rule. 

Warnings for language, triggers, sexual assault against men and women, voyeurism, violence including barbaric torture, mutilation and murder, and heaps of explicit consensual sex. 

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