A brutally honest, uncompromising story about a teen girl who decides to take matters into her own hands.
It’s senior year, and Hadley and her best friend, Magda, should be starting the year together. Instead, Magda is dead and Hadley is alone. Raped at a party the year before and humiliated, Magda was driven to take her own life and Hadley is forced to see her friend’s attackers in the classroom every day. Devastated, enraged and needing an outlet for her grief, Hadley decides to get a little justice of her own.
Donning a pink ski mask and fueled by anger, Hadley goes after each of the guys one by one, planning to strip them of their dignity and social status the way they did to Magda. As the legend of the pink-masked Vigilante begins to take on a life of its own, Hadley’s revenge takes a turn for the dangerous. Could her need for vengeance lead her down a path she can’t turn back from?
ABOUT KADY CROSS:
Kady Cross is a pseudonym for USA Today bestselling author Kathryn Smith. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and a pride of cats. She likes singing with Rock Band on the 360, British guys, Vietnamese food, and makeup (she’s hopelessly addicted to YouTube makeup tutorials!). When she’s not writing Kady likes to catch up on her favorite TV shows, read a good book or make her own cosmetics.
Vigilante is exactly the kind of story YA needs more of. With an unflinching voice and empowering message, it’ll be hard to find a reader left in moved by Kady Cross’ deft takedown of rape culture. Though not without stylistic flaws, I found so much heart and intensity in Cross’ storytelling that I can’t bring myself to give it less than 4 stars. Now, hours after finishing it, I’m left with the task of conveying how much Vigilante affected me. And with that being said, I really have no clue why this story managed to move me in ways many before it have not. Perhaps it was the characters, or the writing, or the sharp criticisms Cross offers up of our world. In any case, may this review aptly explain why Vigilante is a necessity on every bookshelf within reach of young people.
As more and more readers (hopefully) pick this one up, I expect there to be a lot of comparisons to Mindy McGinnis’ The Female of the Species. And the similarities are definitely there; from a young woman taking justice into her own hands after a personal tragedy, to the urgency of how our society needs to change the way it views rape. But though the backbone of both stories is the same, McGinnis and Cross’s presentation of them is radically different. That is to say, a reader who picked up Female will have a completely different takeaway from Vigilante, despite the ability to “copy and paste” whole passages from one book into the other. As I mentioned earlier however, the lesser hyped Vigilante is the book that most resonated with me. Though Cross’s writing is far from perfection (it’s very choppy, to the point, and dialogue ridden), it’s also what allowed me to get inside the heads of characters like Hadley, Magda, and Gabe so well. I love a good, flowery sentence every bit as much as the next reader, but it can definitely cause some serious disconnect. Of course, none of those struggles were present in Vigilante, where I was able to immediately immerse myself in Hadley’s perspective. This was a huge game changer for me, as I saw so much of myself and other young women in the titular Vigilante. She’s undoubtedly flawed (at times being too self righteous and pig headed for words), but very relatable nonetheless. Hadley reads exactly how a seventeen year old should, and I felt this really aided in Cross’s important points hitting home. Oh, and did I mention rootable? Because, from beginning to end, it was my wish for Hadley to find closure- be it through avenging Magda’s death or not. And that leads me to another thing I loved about Vigilante, it’s ability to sift through many of the under represented perspectives of a rape. I felt so close to Magda (a victim of rape and slut shaming, who subsequently kills herself), despite never knowing her in life. Seeing the rollercoaster of emotions she felt was heartbreaking, and something I felt needed to be incorporated for this story to strike an even more emotional chord. I could also count on my heart filling with sadness and rage anytime Magda’s grief stricken mother was on the page. As far as the perpetrators of the crime are concerned, they’re very much a “seen” presence in the book. Cross stuck with a pretty stereotypical portrayal of a teen rapist for three of them: rich, entitled, generally douchey. But for the last one, Jason, I appreciated her humanization of him. She managed to find a slim line between sympathy and accountability, which I appreciated. Also, a major shoutout to empowering female friendship, which can be found in many instances throughout this book!
The strength of Cross’s criticisms of our society, really goes back to that last point I mentioned. Everything is just so, so, so, SO rousing that I’m pretty sure her grocery list would spur me to action. And even if it didn’t, all I need to do is read this book to give myself an instant dose of optimism about the world. Not to say that this book is all rainbows and butterflies 24/7, as Cross paints a very real and very dark picture of rape culture in the US. But what it does do is give the reader a big dose of “You can do it!”. You can start a movement. You can bring justice to those who do not have it. You can inspire everyone, even yourself, to bigger and better things. Though the way Hadley goes about doing these things is definitely not advisable, readers will nonetheless see the changes in her character as she stands up for what she believes in. It’s my hope that I too can be one of those readers who takes this message to heart.
An excellent, albeit occasionally slower paced book, that I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to read. Highly recommended from this bookworm to the next!
-Keep Calm and Read On
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