Take it Back, by Kia Abdullah

Seven stars

Kia Abdullah pens this controversial legal thriller that will have readers pulled into the role of courtroom spectator in a rape case that could go either way, depending on who is to be believed. When Jodie Wolfe enters a women’s legal clinic, she has quite the story to tell. Meeting with Zara Kaleel, Jodie shares a story of being gang raped by a number of her fellow classmates at a recent party. Jodie, physically disabled with neurofibromatosis—a significant facial deformity—asserts that she was lured to a warehouse by four Muslim boys, where they took turns degrading her, laughing the entire time. Zara, armed with this information, begins the process by reporting it to the police, hoping that she can find justice for her client. The accused boys deny that there was any rape and one asserts that it was Jodie who came on to him, only regretting the act after it had taken place. When the incident is ready for trial, there is a media feeding frenzy, pitting the word of one Caucasian girl against the four boys, which fans the flames of racial imbalance in the United Kingdom. At trial, both sides present strong cases, though the narrative differs greatly. Zara is tried in the court of public opinion for helping to prosecute fellow Muslims, which brings shame to her family, but she remains firm that the truth must come out. With Jodie’s story soon developing holes, it is anyone’s guess who is to be believed and whose story is stitched together by last-second fabrications to save face. Justice may be blind, but it certainly is swayed by human influence, as can be seen throughout this piece. Abdullah keeps the reader stunned as they await the outcome, where the truth will offer some solace. Recommended to those who love a slowly developing legal thriller that has more twists than straightforward answers.

I had seen much about this book on Goodreads and wanted to indulge in what looked to be quite the legal thriller. While there is so much on which the attentive reader can feast, there are times when the pace drowned the momentum, rather than increasing it. Jodie Wolfe comes from unenviable means, which is seen throughout this piece. Her physical deformity is one that cannot be hidden, as is the lack of popularity she suffers because of it. She claims to have been a victim, but no one can believe that her appearance would make anyone sexually aroused in the least. Abdullah addresses this throughout in a variety of ways, as the attentive reader will see. While she holds firm to her narrative, the revelation of new and troubling evidence could put the entire case in jeopardy, forcing Jodie to come face to face with holding back the entire truth. Other characters, particularly Zara Kaleel, offer their own flavour to the story. Kaleel must face the issue of law over religious unity, something that not only creates a pariah out of her, but serves as an interesting subplot to the entire piece. Abdullah fills the pages of the book with this struggle, judged in the harshest way, to show that there are time when the truth must come out, no matter what the personal consequences that accompany it. The story was strong and offered some interesting nuances for the reader to discover. There are societal issues that are deeply rooted, as well as cultural norms that fuel the underlying momentum of the press coverage, neither of which is all that helpful. That Abdullah wishes to covey this is worth noting, at a time when quick generalisations fuel opinions, and cultural beliefs come into conflict with firmly held judicial and societal norms. While the story worked well, it was encased in massive chapters that helped dilute the impact. Abdullah might have kept the reader’s attention better with shorter and choppier segments, as she does break up the perspective throughout within each of the chapters. The premise is strong and I was eager to see how things could play out, with many subplots to keep the reader engaged and intrigued.

Kudos, Madam Abdullah, for this thrilling piece. A few tweaks and I would have been thoroughly captivated.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons