Review: Fault Line

Review: Fault LineFault Line by C. Desir
Published by Simon Pulse on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
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four-half-stars

Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

Ordinarily, I go into books, particularly new releases, knowing next to nothing about them. I don’t read reviews or even blurbs. In this case, I made an exception, because of the fascinatingly wide divide in opinions in the early reviews. April (Good Books and Wine) was the first to read and review Fault Line among the bloggers I know. She gave it four stars. Then Giselle (Xpresso Reads) and Jenni (Alluring Reads) read it and hated pretty much everything about it. Steph (Cuddlebuggery) decided to bump it up her TBR to find out what was going on and really liked it. Obviously, this book is divisive and invites strong reactions. I mention this context because I went into this book from a different perspective, having heard feedback from these various people and with an eye out for detail. That said, read closely and with my mind on the issues that were coming, C. Desir’s Fault Line is a starkly honest portrayal of the emotional, physical, interpersonal, legal, and medical difficulties presented in discovering the truth of what happened in a rape case.

Desir sets the tone of the novel with the shocking opening scene, in which Ani gives a blow job to one of her teachers. This scene is witnessed by her boyfriend, Ben (or Beez), the narrator of Fault Line, and it is this moment that makes him give up on her. Then the narrative jumps back in time to when he first met Ani.

Before
By choosing to make Ben the narrator, rather than Ani, Desir distances the reader a step from the situation. This decision and the choice to use the first initial rather than the author’s full name on the book cover suggest too that they wanted to avoid gendering the novel, so that both males and females will read Fault Line and debate the content. I was skeptical about Ben as the narrator, and I know it didn’t work for others, but I think Desir pulled off both the voice and the effect which she aimed to achieve.

Desir gives a good deal of context for who Ani and Ben are as people and as a couple before the incident. Again, though, there’s intentional room for doubt left in the scenario, since Ani is new to town, and none of the teens have known her much longer than a month. Ani immediately attracts Ben: her beauty, sure, but most importantly her sass. He wanted her from the moment she told him his hair made him look like an asshole, which, incidentally, was the first time they met. Ani’s a straight-shooter, totally honest and not a game-player. She’s confident, speaks her mind, and totally willing to embrace the awkward, like addressing the fact that she tasted heavily of mustard during their first kiss. Desir captures the whirlwind feel of that honeymoon phase of the relationship, the way they’re completely caught up in one another and the intensity of their emotions. During this phase, we get a good look at Ani’s general behavior towards both alcohol and sex. When drinking with her friends, Ani is careful not to get too drunk, and is mindful of crossing lines with Ben, not letting him move onto second base because she’s not ready yet. Ani’s the sort of girl to tell her mom that she’s having sex and to not feel any sort of guilt over choosing to be a sexual being.

The Incident
Until the party. Ani goes to a rager with her friend, Kate, plans made to hang out with Ben all of the following day. Instead, he gets a call the next day from Kate to come to the hospital to see Ani, who has been raped. The doctors had to remove a lighter from her vagina. The accounts of events begin pouring in, all hearsay. Kate, who perhaps should have been a more persistent friend, saw as much as anyone who admits to seeing anything saw: Ani going up the stairs with a bunch of guys, declaring that she’s going to get with them.

The whole scenario is left about as unclear as possible in order to reflect the difficulties of these cases in real life. With rape, there often will not be anything but one person’s word against another’s, because there are not generally going to be observers, just rapist(s) and victim. Additionally, rape kits can only do so much. If the rapist uses a condom, they won’t leave behind a sample. Because of the presence of the lighter in her vagina, Ani would be scratched enough it would be hard to tell if her vagina had suffered forced entry. Date rape drug screens often come back negative, because the drugs leave the system so quickly and there’s also the possibility that it’s some drug not found by the common tests. Similarly, the cops generally aren’t going to dig into these cases all that deeply.

While I am personally pretty close to completely convinced Ani was raped, I can also understand where other readers will come to different conclusions. All of the evidence is circumstantial, and the bulk of it deals with stacking up the Ani of before the incident next to the Ani afterwards. If you didn’t get a strong handle on her character, that element will be lacking. Also, if you look at the situation from the perspective of a juror in a court watching evidence appear in front of you, I can see where the reasonable doubt would come in. It is in this messy, harsh world that Fault Line resides.

The reason I’m so convinced that Ani was raped is mostly based on the way the experience changed her. She’s not pressing charges or pursuing the perpetrators in any way, and, if she had gotten drunk, slept around and regretted it, her reactions don’t make sense. If she consented and was trying to frame someone, she would have stuck to her initial response of fear and wearing large clothing, which is what society expects of a rape survivor. While such false accusations do happen sometimes, I do not see much likelihood for that here.

After
After the incident, Ani retreats into herself. She blames herself for drinking, for being irresponsible, because she knows better. Though she’s not responsible for the rape, she still feels guilty, because this is how society programs women to think, like wearing a short skirt or drinking are invitations to our vaginas, when, in fact, the only invitation is AN ACTUAL INVITATION. After the party, she dresses in large clothes and shies away from human affection. Her forthrightness and vivacity from before are gone. Then, in response to the endless taunts and abuse, she returns to her more usual tight clothing and begins having sex with any guy that’s up for it. The names people call Ali from the moment news of the party begins to spread are as follows: Firecrotch, Cum Dumpster, Manhole. People say these things to her and write them on her locker; not knowing who she is anymore, she decides she might as well live up to her reputation, because at least that’s something.

Though I have not been raped, I do have some friends who have been, and I want to tell you about one situation, names obviously not included. One of my good friends, a devout Christian who was and is again waiting for marriage to have sex, was date-raped in college by her boyfriend. Then, during a semester-long internship, she ended up having an affair with a married man whose wife was pregnant. She told me about all of this and it was completely mind-blowing and tragic. This is something that she never in a million years would have done had she not been raped. She wanted to reclaim her sexual experience and the whole affair made a warped sort of sense in her brain. I relate this painful story to explain why I found Fault Line so moving and the portrayal so convincing. Though it may seem illogical for a woman to be raped and then go have sex, it IS something that happens. Women react to rape in so many different ways, because, in most cases, it’s incredibly destructive mentally. Ani’s shame spiral is, to me, done convincingly and heartbreakingly.

In Ani’s downward spiral, Ben’s POV became particularly effective. By being in his head rather than Ani’s, I could really see how hard he was trying and how much he cared. Of course, I can also see where a lot of what he does is an obvious misstep. Much has been said of how it doesn’t make sense for Ben to stick around for so long, but I think Desir handled that well too. Ben sticks around partially out of guilt, because, had he gone to the party, nothing would have happened. Of course, the rape is in no way his fault, but that doesn’t assuage his emotional response. As such, he wants to help Ani, and so he’s researching and listening to advice from counselors and rape survivors, all telling him to be patient and supportive until she comes around. The other aspect for why he tries so hard is that he fell in love for the first time, or at least thinks he did. He hopes that a veil will part and the Ani he fell for will return to him. Seeing how much he’s trying and how little Ani will listen to reason just destroyed me, because I have so much sympathy for both of them.

The one aspect that I didn’t think was handled particularly convincingly was Ani’s relationship with her mother. Before the rape, she told her mother everything, and her mother came across as endlessly supportive and involved, though not especially controlling. After the incident, Ani clams up and refuses to tell her mom, which strikes me as believable, but two elements of that did not. First, there’s a sudden back story added in which Ani was sexually abused once by a cousin—he masturbated in front of her— and her mother apparently reacted quite dramatically, and thus Ani doesn’t think she can tell her about this. This could have been done effectively, but it’s delivered so quickly that I couldn’t really get a handle on it and it seemed a needless complication, because that’s not needed to make her fear telling her mother. Second, I cannot believe the mother introduced in the first half would fail to notice that something incredibly serious is going down with her daughter.

Though I have my personal interpretation, Fault Line is very much going to result in a different reaction in every reader and I do believe it’s meant to. Fault Line provokes discussion, which I’ve witnessed in each person who’s read it. Even those that hated it have felt compelled to talk about the book and work through the complexities. In my opinion, that alone makes Fault Line an unparalleled success, though, obviously, I thought there was far more to like about Fault Line than just the way that it promotes conversation about and consideration of the impact of rape.

Favorite Quote:

“It’s a tree of life. It’s sort of this symbol to remind me how we’re all connected. How something that one person does can change the outcome for so many people. For good or bad.”

34 responses to “Review: Fault Line”

  1. *sigh* I just loved this one. The realism was so there for me. I didn’t even think about the mother, but you’re right. That part was a little far-fetched. Since they were close, she should have noticed something was wrong with her daughter.

    Fabulous review.
    Steph Sinclair recently posted…Blog Tour: Guest Post by Lea Nolan Author of Allure + GiveawayMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      It really felt like the mother and their dynamics changed totally, but not just because of Ani’s incident. All of a sudden, there were all of these stories about how her mom was the worst, where beforehand they were incredibly close and loving. Plus, I don’t know that I see a mom who would give her condoms slut-shaming her because her cousin sexually abused her. From Ani’s side, I can still see the distance, but the issues with her mom were not explained enough.

  2. Celine says:

    I have seen a lot of different opinions on Fault Line. I’m very interested what I’ll think of it, since I can see both sides. It does sound like a very powerful book and I think it’s good that people talk about it whether they liked it or not!

    You talk about a couple of things that would probably irk me, like Ani’s mother not noticing that there’s somethig wrong with her daughter, but in all, this sounds like a really powerful and moving read.

    Great review!
    Celine recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #9My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Novels where people come down on such definite sides are always so fascinating, aren’t they? Even though there’s a chance I’ll hate it, they’re much more tempting than the ones that everyone agreed were 3 star material.

  3. Nara says:

    I haven’t read a lot of reviews for this book, but it does seem that there is a wide range of opinions about it. Like you, I don’t tend to read blurbs and reviews of books if I know I’m definitely going to read them, but I actually like to read reviews of books I’m not so sure about (Fault Line is one of these).

    The book does sound quite powerful, but it also seems to be touching on quite a few serious issues- and the characters seem rather messed up. It’s interesting that the book is from the point of view of Ben rather than Ani- a lot of books about rape seem to be from the POV of the raped person rather than one of their friends or whatever.

    You’ve definitely increased my intrigue about the book and I think I will actually get myself a copy of it at some point. Nice review 🙂
    Nara recently posted…Review: Witchstruck by Victoria LambMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      If I’m not convinced I’ll read something, I do read reviews for it too. And I think this is a book where knowing what’s coming isn’t a bad thing, which is why I didn’t spoiler tag it. This isn’t a mystery. It’s all about the ethics and how you interact with the content.

  4. Meg says:

    That’s it, officially bumping this up the list. It sounds like a fascinating and tragic story. I always debate whether or not to read books like this. On the one hand, the subject matter makes me angry and do I really need to seek out extra rage but on the other, it’s something that needs to be talked about and I appreciate thoughtful analysis of complex situations. I also like that it’s told from Ben’s POV, that’s an interesting take and it sounds like it’s pretty well handled.

    • Christina Franke says:

      I used to refuse to read books like this because life is depressing enough, but now I take the tack that at least mine seems better in comparison. Although, in this instance, that’s not as effective, because the law is totally against women and our society blames us for rape, and just ugh. But still important to read.

  5. Jenni says:

    Even though you and I totally disagree on this book I have to say that I love this review so hard. I think you really captured what the author was going for and I love that you acknowledge that there are different ways readers take what they are given. The part about being on the jury is particularly effective.

    This book will go down in history as my most perplexing reading experience of all time. I mean this so a ME book, but it just didn’t work at all. I think not being able to latch onto the characters really kept me from feeling any of the emotions. Also, I totally agree about Ani’s mother, I mean Ani’s change was immense, she did a complete 180. I think the mother presented in the beginning of the book would have definitely noticed that something was up.

    Happy that you had a much better time with this one than I did. Now let’s throw this in the vault with The Duff and never talk about it again 😉
    Jenni recently posted…Made of Stars ReviewMy Profile

  6. MackenziLee says:

    Is it weird that my favorite part of your reviews is that they include a “best quote from the book”? I love pulling good quotes out of books (I use goodreads to track mine!) and so I love that you do the same!

    This book doesn’t sound like my usual read, but you make a pretty compelling case for it. I might have to check it out!

  7. Angel says:

    I skimmed this because I don’t want to be spoiled but I like what you had to say here. I recently read a book with a similar theme and was so turned off by how unrealistic everyone’s reactions were. (well, in my opinion). Tough situations make life and relationships complicated. Sounds like the author maybe got this right.

    Still deciding if I’ll read it though. I’m sometimes a wimp on hard to read books.

    • Christina Franke says:

      No problem. I skim reviews for books I haven’t read but plan to as well. And there are some spoilers, but I think it’s not really a book where that matters, though who knows. We all read differently.

      The reactions were very realistic to me, but it is a very tough book.

  8. Siiri says:

    I read Jenni’s review on GR and I truly felt like I would hate this book and now I read yours and it’s a complete 180. I think I should give it a go and see what I think of it. I agree that it really depends on the reader and I’m glad that you took these things the way the author intended.

    I love a girl with sass and confidence. I haven’t always had the best relationship with my mom, but I love her to pieces and I always end up telling her things even if they happened way back. I could definitely relate to the before Ani.

    I don’t get it though. What kind of a friend are you if you let your girl friend go upstairs with a gang of guys like this? O.o That’s just.. insane. I’m glad I don’t have any kind of friends like that.

    I recently read a book about a girl who was in love with her best friend’s big brother and when they started dating and thought about a life together, the girl was raped while on a run in the park. It truly changed her. They knew it was a rape, but it just didn’t affect her, it affected the guy who she loved as well. You could amlost feel how painful it was for the guy to not do anything and just let it all heal and hope for the best. I think it’d be really hard on Ben as well and I’m already sorry the girl is acting this way, but.. it just affects everyone differently and especially with a case like this where the girl is obviously not aware of her true worth and thinks lower of herself. I’m so sorry for Ben for going through this as well as Ani. It sucks that it actually happens in this big ole world. Btw, that mom thing is bonkers! I think that it’s kind of like a mom’s instinct or something to figure out that one’s child is hurt and needs help. Sometimes one doesn’t acknowledge it and can be ignorant about it, but since they were obviously close before, it’s really, really weird that she doesn’t notice anything. And that cousin thing? Wth.

    Yeah, I guess I should give this one a try. It’s not going to happen anytime soon, but I’m thinking about it for sure.
    Siiri recently posted…Review: Thousand Words by Jennifer BrownMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Jenni and I discussed this one a lot, and it really hinges on whether you connect with the characters and also through what lens you’re looking at everything.

      See, I, on the other hand, basically tell my mom nothing. We’ve just never had that sort of relationship, and I can’t imagine talking boys and sex with her. I’m sure she would, but just no.

      Yeah, I was not impressed with Kate. To be fair, Kate has only known her for like a month and a half, and Ani was treating her like shit at the party. Kate did try to intervene but Ani mouthed off on her and she was sort of like “fine!”, but I hope that if I ended up in a similar situation, my friends would stop me, no matter how big of a bitch I was about it, and I would surely be a massive one.

      Oooh, what book is it that you read?

  9. I’m so glad you loved this too, Christina! I would have been sad if you hadn’t and then proceeded to heckle you for a little while–good-naturedly, of course.

    I never thought about how Gayle never seemed to notice something was wrong with her daughter. What kept me from giving it the full five was that I thought Ben’s life and what his desire to help Ani was costing him wasn’t fleshed out enough. A lot of things were mentioned in the before time but not really shown and then we’re told these are things he’s lost. Nevertheless, you hit all the same points I do and even went into exactly why I believe she was raped too. I didn’t even go into that because it seemed so obvious from the mental toll it took on her and how she behaved afterwards. Amazing, well-worded review, Christina!
    Ashleigh Paige recently posted…Review: Fault Line by C. DesirMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yes, yes. Just as you will heckle me about Devil until the day one of us dies, so presumable for like 40-50 more years. *heckles back*

      I really connected to their relationship, so though I can see where you’re coming from, I was totally in it emotionally. If she were faking rape, I just don’t think that’s a way anyone would ever think to do it. Plus, would you really go to the extreme of giving a gross teacher a blow job? I don’t think so. Besides, if you were faking it to dodge the rape, you would act like a prude, not an excuse to do more sexual things under the guise of emotional turmoil. I hate talking about in these terms, but I think that’s really the most convincing element in some respects: how illogical that would be as an embarrassed false cry of rape response.

  10. Lesley says:

    I’ve had my eye on this one for a while. I’ll definitely be picking it up now because the varying reactions to it really interest me. I’d say I’m glad you enjoyed it, but enjoy doesn’t really seem like the right word. So I guess I’m glad you didn’t hate it.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Sometimes I do feel like an ass for saying I loved certain books, because they’re SO horrible in content. But it was well done. But I shouldn’t “enjoy” it. #bookbloggerproblems

  11. Amazing review. I’ve heard the differing opinions on Fault Line and I’m still curious to read it. Like you said, it makes people think and that seems to be the good thing. Also, there aren’t many books about rape and so there are many myths.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      There are a lot of books that have rape as a minor issue, something in the past that the heroine’s still sort of dealing with (see any NA ever), but not many that really focus on it and highlight the various issues.

  12. Shelly says:

    I was a little hesitant to read this review because this book doesn’t seem right for me but I’m glad I read it anyway. This book sounds like it handles real issues and rape being an issue not usually tackled in YA novels. The story sounds so real but not suitable for me (I’m what people can call “the fluff reader”) I’m glad that you connected to Fault Line because it sounds very gripping. Amazing review
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Oh, yeah, if you’re a fluff reader, I wouldn’t recommend Fault Line. And, no judgment, because I have a LONG history of being a fluff reader. That only switched a couple of years ago really. Where I used to only read fluff, I now read dark stuff far more often. I’m sure it will change again at some point. Read what you want!

  13. Lyn Kaye says:

    I was ready to write this one off, because the first review I saw just tore it apart. Now I am just as curious as the other readers.

  14. Ellis says:

    I already know I’m going to have a hard time with it, but I really want to read this novel. I tend to strongly empathise with realities as bleak as this, which makes for a very visceral reaction. Even just reading your review is heart-breaking.

    I would have to read it for myself, but I actually can believe Ani wouldn’t tell her mother or that her mother wouldn’t notice something is seriously wrong. I agree with your point about sex after rape. There seems to be a tendency (especially on television) to make all raped women go hysterical during moments of intimacy. Sex after rape can be extremely triggering, but you’re right that everyone reacts differently. It’s good that this side is shown and it’s very believable Ani would behave that way if people are treating her so horribly.

    Truly, this is a wonderful review.
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Oh yeah, you’re going to cry. Both Steph and Ashleigh did. I’m pretty much a monster, so I didn’t. However, I felt so incredibly awful for both the main characters.

      I could believe Ani not telling her mother, but the fact that her mother didn’t notice the EXTREME changes in her personality was ridiculous. You would notice if your kid was walking around with dead eyes or wore really baggy clothes for a week.

  15. Molli says:

    Really curious about this one. Giselle and I talked a bit about it on Twitter when she finished it, and it made me go “WHOA” because what she thought and what *I* was expecting were so vastly different. It’s still on my TBR because I want to give it a try. Reading is so subjective, and it’s very fascinating to get SUCH different reactions and points of view.

    I’m really interested to see how the author handles rape. I know she’s a huge advocate for developing better dialogue and awareness about rape, and I totally support that. Interested to see what she brings to the subject – I just can’t imagine she’d mishandle it like some reviews I’ve seen have suggested.

    The whole thing about Ben sticking with Ani seems so sad to me. I know you were talking about how fast they developed but how real it felt in our TTT comments, but even so I have a feeling my heart will go out to him when I read this, and to Ani, as well.

    Lovely review, Christina!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue
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    • Christina Franke says:

      This one definitely does divide people. With Giselle’s reading, I think she just came at it from a really different point of view. I saw on Twitter that she knew a guy who was falsely accused of rape, so I think she came in more like a juror, trying to determine whether the guys were guilty. That’s not wrong, but it does really change things. It’s very open so far as strict evidence goes, running more to the circumstantial. I’m not really in doubt, but I can see where other readers are getting that.

      She’s definitely bringing dialogue. The question is whether it succeeds with awareness.

      Oh god, it’s so heartbreaking. They had such a good, healthy thing going, and he tries so hard to help her. Oof. And he may even contribute to her bad reaction, but not on purpose. It’s just so painful.

  16. Rachel says:

    Oh thank goodness. I was worried you weren’t going to like this one. I haven’t read it yet, but I certainly plan on doing so. I really like how you went about reading it with a critical eye/I’m glad that everything was portrayed convincingly because when serious issues like this aren’t done well, I get pissed. I don’t think that’s going to be the case with this one though, from what you’ve said.
    Rachel recently posted…Review + Giveaway: A Monster Calls by Patrick NessMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I was afraid of that myself! Right, I usually go in and just read without thinking too much about it, but I’d read so much beforehand that I really wanted to dive in and look for any clues that might have been missed on either side.

      Hope you love it too, Rachel!

  17. This one has been on my list since I saw the cover, but now I just HAVE to read it soon. I’m kind of skimming right now because I don’t really want to know what it’s about. I didn’t know it was a contemporary, though. Nor did I know it was a heavy read. I’m blind to everything.
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  18. Jessie says:

    This is one of those books that I am VEEEERY curious about. I don’t know what side I will end up in, loving/hating/etc., but I do know all these impassioned responses have my very interested in Fault Line.

    I haven’t read the book yet so I can’t say too much, but this is a great review. I am iffy on how removed the narrator is from Ani if she is the focal point, but I still am very curious about reading this book.
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  19. Danielle says:

    Amazing review Christina. It broke my heart just reading your take on it and about your friend. I’ve been debating whether to read this because of the varying reactions to it and I guess a fear of how I will react to it but it does sound like a book that needs to be read.
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