Author: Kady Cross
The blurb for Vigilante grabbed my attention and I knew I had to read it, I jumped at the chance to feature the title as a book club read because I hope it will open up the conversation. Thank you, as always, to Harlequin for providing us with copies.
There are definite triggers in this book, and in my review, so be warned; there are some quite graphic descriptions of assault.
Vigilante is a book that should never have needed to be written, it’s a book that could so easily be the story of countless young women across the country, across the world. This is an American book but it could so easily be Australian and it hurts that it could so easily be the story of someone you know.
Hadley is starting her senior year, what should have been an exciting year spent with her best friend Magda is looking endless. Magda didn’t make it to senior year, after being raped and humiliated she took her own life and Hadley is left to face senior year, and Magda’s attackers, alone. As if it wouldn’t be hard enough seeing them in the halls Hadley is unlucky enough to end up in the same homeroom as all of them and shares some of the same classes.
Devastated and angry Hadley wants to see the boys pay, it isn’t fair that they are walking around free while Magda is gone. Hadley decides that justice has to be done and if the court system can’t do it then she’ll do it herself. She dons a pink ski mask and sets out to humiliate each of the boys the way they did to Madga but the Vigilante becomes bigger than she bargained for.
This book was painful to read at times, the picture it painted of sexual assault is terrifying but worse than that is the victim shaming that is all too prevalent. Vigilante tells the story of a girl with a crush who found herself drugged and gang-raped, she did the right thing and reported the assault but rich boys tend not to have to face the same consequences as others might. The victim shaming that followed pushed Magda past the point with which she could cope and it came from everywhere. Always reminded of the things she should or should not have done to avoid having that happen to her, not pointing out that the boys simply shouldn’t have done it.
Hadley takes martial arts and one of the officers who worked on Magda’s case comes to her dojo to start a self-defence class for young women to teach them to protect themselves. What begins as a self-defence class grows into a bonding experience that helps Hadley learn to live again and empowers young women, teaches them to work together and look out for each other instead of competing against one another.
I really am struggling to put into words everything this book evoked in me. It is terrifying to think of the staggeringly high sexual assault statistics and I’m not sure if Cross used actual statistics or made them up but I know they really are extremely high and that terrifies me at the thought of my teen daughter’s safety.
The girls in the self defence class raise the arguments that the best way to bring down the rape statistics is to teach boys not to rape. It seems simple but while the reactions to allegations of assault are that she asked for it, she wanted it, she shouldn’t have worn that, she shouldn’t have been drinking, she shouldn’t have been alone with him instead of he should have kept it in his pants the statistics are going to remain ridiculously high.
It doesn’t matter if you are a sporty kid that gets good grades and has rich parents, if you assault someone that makes you a menace. It wasn’t that long ago that there was a case in the news that sparked huge debates online because of the portrayal of a boy who had been charged with sexual assault.
Vigilante addresses these issues and sees a young woman take the law into her own hands to make the boys pay and that’s probably not the safest message to send. Yes, she was idolised for taking a stand but she knowingly put herself in danger, she went out looking for trouble and it became a very dangerous game she was playing. At the same time it showed a group of young women banding together to look out for one another and all finding a way to move past the assaults they had suffered.
Hadley herself recognises at times that she is walking a fine line; this isn’t always about justice, sometimes it’s about revenge. Sometimes it’s about trying to alleviate the guilt she’s carrying. There are times she considers an eye for an eye type retribution but she recognises that it would put her on the same level as the boys who violated her friend. It begins by accident with Hadley coming across one of the alleged perpetrators passed out at a party and she takes the opportunity to humiliate him, only then deciding on a course of action to take them all on.
There were four boys involved in Magda’s attack and they are all guilty, even if one of them did nothing more than hold the camera that recorded the attack. The further we got into the story the more I recognised his remorse and could see that perhaps he was a boy who just didn’t have the courage to stand up to his friends, but that doesn’t make him any less guilty.
The Vigilante brought together young women to look out for each other but she also inspired young men to step in and help; to remind us that there are still good guys out there.
Hadley has had a crush on Magda’s older brother for years, never dreaming that anything would come of it. The loss of Magda brings them closer together and their relationship serves as a stark contrast to the situations other girls find themselves in throughout the book.
I loved this book, it hurt me to read it at times and my heart broke for all the victims of assault and all of those who were shamed. It raised some important points and highlighted some of the areas we as a society need to start changing our thinking until no-one thinks this behaviour is okay. I would love to see teens everywhere reading this and increasing their awareness.
Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading Vigilante so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I am looking forward to what our readers thought of this one.