Title: Yes Means Yes: A Novel
Author: Steven M. Wells
Genre: Crime and Suspense
A young woman’s quest for justice on behalf of her friend forms the backbone of this compelling novel by author Steven M. Wells. One night, graduate student Katie Russell overhears sounds of a violent struggle in her friend Ava’s apartment, which is situated one floor above her own. Rushing to her friend’s aid, she discovers a disturbing scene where an unconscious Ava is lying naked and unconscious in bed.
Convinced that a crime has been committed, Katie takes Ava to the hospital for a physical examination. In addition, she tries to convince Ava to file a complaint against the suspect, who happens to be an ex-boyfriend and the quarterback of the university’s football team.
When Ava refuses, Katie takes it upon herself to file a complaint and to testify against the perpetrator. Teaming up with an ex-detective and other unlikely allies, she seeks to untangle the web of deceit and cover-ups surrounding sexual assault on college campuses.
This book, in addition to having a gripping premise, is also highly relevant in the wake of various movements that have cropped up these past couple of years, such as Time’s Up and Me Too. These movements have seen an increasing number of women break their silence on being victims of sexual assault, a theme that the author explores exhaustively in this book.
The author’s passion for the subject matter clearly comes across in his work. The novel is well-researched and informative, especially with regards to laws around assault, like No Means No and Yes Means Yes. The author creatively wove the research into the plot by having Katie study these laws as part of her graduate studies in Philosophy.
Steven M. Wells also managed to establish a parallel between the ongoing assault case and Katie’s own personal life. As a result, there was a sense of connectivity and cohesiveness in the subplots that only served to reinforce the message that the question of consent and the dynamics of power involved in a sexual assault case is not as clear-cut as we’d like it to be.
There were moments when the research threatened to overwhelm the narrative, such as when entire chapters are dedicated entirely to discussing the Yes Means Yes law and the cases that set a precedent for said law. While this may be necessary to a degree, it had an impact on the momentum that the story was starting to gain, especially toward the latter half of the book.
The attention to detail and the authentic feel of the procedural aspects of the case makes this book a welcome addition to the crime genre. Moreover, the sensitive treatment of a controversial subject matter adds nuance to the plot and elevates it above the usual run of-the-mill crime novel. In this heroine’s quest for justice, the book unwittingly becomes a driving force in providing a voice for a generation of women who are unable to speak for themselves. Filled with morality questions, ethical dilemmas, and intelligent discourse, this thought-provoking book will stay with readers long after the last page has been read.
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