The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.
The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.
Whose side would you take?
Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a glittering career at the Bar. All before hanging up her barrister’s wig to help the victims who needed her most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.
Jodie’s own best friend doesn’t even believe her claims that their classmates carried out such a crime. But Zara does. And Zara is determined to fight for her.
Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?
Another publication day review to share with you, this time for Take It Back by Kia Abdullah. Happy publication day, Kia, and my thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
This was a fascinating legal thriller that deals with a multitude of complex and contentious issues that are very relevant in current society and, at the same time, providing a page-turning ‘who did what’ story. There are so many layers to this book that it is one I will definitely go back to and read again with a fresh set of eyes to make sure I have rung every nuance from it, but I will do the best I can to write my review based on my first read of it.
The story involves an allegation of rape by a girl with facial deformities against a group of boys from an ethnic minority background and, from the off, it causes discomfort in the reader as our sympathies are pitted against one another as we try and work out which characters are the real victims in the story. This is the main theme of the book, how do you deal with individuals from two separate, disadvantaged groups pointing the finger at one another without allowing personal or societal prejudices affect your judgement? The narrative casts a sharp and unflattering light on the way our society currently operates and how we view and react to people very different to ourselves. The book made me ask some very uncomfortable questions about my own privilege and possible prejudices and preconceptions and, by the end, I was left with more questions than answers and a good many issues to probe further.
The main character in the book is Zara, a modern woman with a high-flying career who has taken the drastic step of leaving behind a lucrative career at the Bar to help victims of sexual violence. Zara comes from a Muslim family and has a good many demons of her own to address, a number of which she is forced to confront as her current case spirals out of control and spills over into her personal life. The use of Zara as the main focus of the book is a clever vehicle for forcing the reader to see the kinds of problems minorities have to face in our society and what conflicts they are presented with. Those of us who do not fall into these categories can find it almost impossible to imagine what challenges are presented daily to minorities and books like this one which don’t shy away from presenting these challenges to us in a digestible format can offer the opportunity to think about these things from a different angle. The author does a really great job of portraying Zara as someone real and flawed and sympathetic so we can try, for a brief time, to slip into her shoes.
The protagonists on both sides of the criminal investigation are portrayed as complicated characters with motivations, personalities, desires and faults that are revealed gradually throughout the novel. so that the readers perception of who might be telling the truth and who might be lying can change from page to page as we learn more about them, just as Zara’s does. I had no clear idea of the truth until the very last page and, as a result, the book held my attention easily from beginning to end. It wasn’t an easy read, though. These are some deeply troubling issues that are being addressed in the story and parts of it made me extremely uncomfortable in a way that had me asking questions of myself throughout. For a thriller of this type, this is an unusual and accomplished achievement and puts this book a cut above some of the run of the mill titles that have appeared in this genre. To dismiss it as just another of its type would be to do the book a grave disservice.
The settings and descriptions of the book present a grim background that perfectly suits the plot and the writing really brought everything to life – location, characters, mood and story. This is a skilfully written book that offers a big punch and a lot of food for thought, as well as a gripping read. It is a book that will stay with me for a while and I highly recommend it.
Take It Back is out today and you can get a copy here.
About the Author
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. She has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC and Lonely Planet, and is the founding editor of outdoor travel blog Atlas & Boots, read by 250,000 people a month.
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Facebook: Kia Abdullah