Review: What Happened That Night

2018-11-10 13.39.17

Rating: 3 Stars

What Happened That Night by Sandra Block is the story of a young woman whose life was changed one night when she was brutally assaulted in her college. She dropped out of college, gave up on her dreams, and lives with constant fear and rage. What frustrates her the most, is that she has no recollection of the assault. She has no idea who the perpetrators were, and no one to blame but herself, leading to suicidal thoughts and sever panic attacks.

As Dahlia tries to pick up the pieces of her badly fragmented life, working as a paralegal, with tattoos, piercings, and dyed hair as a mark of her reaction to the lost memories, her life takes another unexpected turn. A video of the barbarous sexual assault is posted online. Now that she knows exactly what was done to her, her rage threatens to get out of control, and she decides to make the rapists pay.

The details of the assault are very painful to read, and you find yourself rooting for Dahlia and her plan for revenge. What brings the book down is the juvenile way in which it all happens. The writer takes some pains to establish how successful these men are, yet the plans to bring them all down seem like they have been thought out by high school kids. I was disappointed in how easy it all turned out to be.

I liked the characters of Dahlia and James, and the fact that the book highlights the very real issue of campus rapes and how lives are destroyed by these vile acts. I wish the twists had also been worthwhile, if not the actual revenge scheme. It looked like Block had a hard time keeping any secrets, because the truth about both James and Eli was evident from quite early on in the book.

I don’t like saying it, but by making revenge look so easy, Block has somewhat trivialized the struggle that rape survivors have to go through. It was extremely painful to read about what happened to Dahlia in the immediate aftermath of the assault where she had to live through people putting the blame on her , and no one understanding the trauma she was in. If only it was as easy for everyone in the same situation to take revenge!

In the end, this turned out to be an average book even though it looked so promising to me.

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