After having a disagreement with her mother and sister, Stacey decides to stay away from home for a couple of nights. She stays at her father’s flat the first night and on her way to school meets charming Harry in a coffee shop. He sees her sketching some fashion and offers to introduce her to a fashion buyer in an up-market store in Oxford Street. Already late for school, Stacey takes Harry up on his offer and they spend a good part of the day together. Not ready to return home, she decides to go with Harry to a flat his brother looks after. She stays the night and although her and Harry seem to be developing a relationship further than friends, he is the gentleman and they sleep in separate bedrooms. The situation seems safe enough until the following afternoon when Stacey intends to return home. Although Harry is not the perpetrator, he is integral to what happens to Stacey. The rape is no surprise, for the first sentence in the book reads ‘My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.’. To go into what transpired leading up to and after the rape however would spoil the story. It unfolds slowly and has been constructed meticulously.
This novel is in two parts. The first part is Stacey’s retelling of events leading up to and soon after the rape. Patrice, her best friend, suggests she write everything down. The reader learns of her family situation, Patrice, in whom she confides about the rape, and her doubts about their friendship, which contribute to Stacey not contacting anyone while she was away from home and school. Deliberately written, step-by-step in fine detail, part one works well as it builds the story slowly. The reader gets to know all characters, city landscape and where Stacey is, almost like one is with Stacey every step of the way.
The second part of the book is after Stacey writes her account of the rape, exploring her feelings of guilt, humiliation and confusion. Many facets of the ordeal are dealt with and Stacey’s predicament throughout the entire novel is explicit and heartfelt. She is a plucky, likeable young woman who, I think, handles the situation extremely well.
At 183 pages this is not a long book, and nor does it have to be. While the topic is a tragic one it is also prevalent and at the risk of sounding moralistic, I think every girl should be given this book when they turn 12 or 13. Not just for the obvious dangers of being in a situation, by themselves, with people they do not know well, but the possible manipulation by, and conceit of people and the importance of having the confidence and resilience to deal with this.
Anne Cassidy has a knack of getting into the heads of her readers. I read Looking for J J and its sequel Finding Jennifer Jones years ago and I remember them fondly. They were some of my staple go to books for teenagers, particularly girls, looking for a good read. Gripping and intriguing, they tackled the hard topic of a child killer. No Virgin tackles the hard topic of rape in an equally authentic way. Once I had started this book I found it very hard to stop, so give yourself time to absorb the well-worked language and careful plot development. A welcome new work from a favourite author.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for supplying this book for review.