By Maria Padian
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“Outstanding, powerful, and important . . . This is, hands down, one of the best sexual assault reads in YA.”—Book RiotWhat really happened at the party that night?
Haley saw Jenny come back to the dorm, shell-shocked.
Richard heard Jordan brag about the cute freshman he hooked up with.
When Jenny accuses Jordan of rape, Jordan claims she’s lying. Haley and Richard, who have just started dating, are pushed to opposite sides of the school’s investigation. Will the truth ever come to light? Reputations, relationships, and whole lives depend on it.
. . .
Doors stand open down the long length of hall. Bright bulbs of conversation drift between them, sparked by bursts of laughter. Girls slip from one room to the next carrying armloads of whisper-weight dresses, lovely and soft.
They cluster in Jenny's; her roommate is away. They comb, unasking, through her closet. Toss the contents of their own on her bed. Try this. That color is so good on you. I have shoes for that; what size do you wear?
The air feels electric as they make each other beautiful.
. . .
Haley wakes to pain. Actually, to clapping. "Happy" is this month's ringtone. It pulls her from a fitful nap. Glowing red knives pierce the space between her ears when she moves her eyeballs.
Sunlight peeks around the edges of the shades in the dark dorm room. The windows are closed, and it's hot. Why does Jenny always shut the windows?
From her iPhone, happiness rings.
She gropes at the top of the desk, locates the solid rectangle, squints at the screen. It's her mother. Again. She answers the call with her thumb.
"So I just got off with the people at the health center, and we're all agreed that this would be easier if you'd sign the release papers. They won't talk to me and they can't talk to your doctors at home until you do."
Haley doesn't answer. Her thoughts take shape in molasses. She hears her mother, she understands, but her tongue feels thick. She wades thigh-deep through something dark and sticky in search of words.
"Haley, are you there?"
"Yeah. What time is it?" she manages. She doesn't feel like opening her eyes again to check the phone and see for herself.
"Two o'clock. Were you sleeping?"
"Trying to." She doesn't attempt to hide the annoyance in her voice.
"I'm sorry. I don't know when is the right time to call. But this is important."
"I told you I would do it, okay? It'll happen."
"Haley." The patient tone. Which is not patient at all, but just short of anger. What a relief, if she'd just yell. "This is serious. Your treatment team at school can't—"
"Treatment team." Haley repeats the words like she's tasting them. Trying to decide if she likes or even recognizes the flavor.
"The doctors who are monitoring you," her mother says.
Haley mulls this over. Considers this disconnect between the image her mother must have of a state-of-the-art medical facility and the shabby reality of the MacCallum College health center. She'd managed to drag herself over there this morning: Coach's orders. Sat in an excruciatingly bright room and answered questions from a friendly nurse who took her temperature and wrapped a blood pressure cuff around her arm. Talked to a bald doc who confirmed—surprise, surprise—that she'd suffered a concussion when she and the middie from Jefferson College both went up for that header at Saturday's game.
Stars. A glorious explosion of fireworks as her brain banged against the side of her skull. She actually remembers the impact, unlike her two previous concussions, when she'd blacked out and had to be told afterward what had happened.
On the grass, a familiar helmet of pain encasing her head, she heard whistles, calls for a knee-down. No no no. Still three weeks left of the regular season. No no no . . .
Funny how that was her first thought. Not paralysis or permanent impairment, but play time. How long she'd sit the bench.
"You know, Mom, I sort of decided sleep was more important than hauling my ass back across campus so you can know what my blood pressure is."
"What sort of an answer is that? This isn't about me or what I do or I don't know! It's about the health center having access to your medical records back home and the doctors being allowed to speak to one another. I can't give them the go-ahead! You're eighteen and considered an adult, and you have to sign the release of records forms."
Her mother's voice, an irritant on a good day, is an instrument of pure torture at this moment. Haley suspects that if she doesn't end the call soon, her head will literally explode.
"Mom. It's my third concussion. We know the drill." No reading, no computers, no television. No soccer. Especially no soccer.
"Now, you see, that's the problem. Your third concussion—says who? The emergency room doc at that Podunk hospital where your coach dragged you? Haley, these people are trained to stitch up drunks on a Saturday night. Did anyone give you an impact test?"
Oh god oh god make it end. Haley considers turning off the phone. For days. Although that would most likely prompt an actual visit from her mother.
"She said . . . No. No, they didn't do an impact test. They didn't need to. She said I was pretty typical. And the guy at health services just asked a few questions, then told me to go to bed." Haley hears her mother sigh impatiently. This is not the answer she wants.
"Without an impact test, how can they possibly monitor your progress?"
Not a real question. Rhetorical. And not at all what her mother's really thinking. How can they know when you'll be ready to play again? Haley fills in for her.
From the slough of molasses in which her thoughts move, another emerges: Don't tell her what Coach said.
Coach, who had ordered Haley into her car after they returned to campus and the rest of the team unloaded from the bus. Coach, who drove her straight to the local hospital and sat with her until the young woman doc on duty checked her out. Who returned her to the dorm, where Saturday night was in full swing. When they pulled up to the curb outside Haley's building, they could hear the pulse of music through the closed windows of the car. A steady stream of laughing students poured in and out the front doors. Every light in every room was on.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," Coach remarked. "They would have let you stay overnight at the hospital."
"I'll be fine," Haley replied. "You get used to dorm noise."
"Well, sleep is your most important medicine right now. Rest, water, and lots of sleep."
Haley began to nod, then thought better of it. Her head felt like it rested atop a pike. She was about to get out, but Coach kept speaking.
"You know, since I was sitting with you when the nurse did the intake, I couldn't help but overhear you tell them that this is your third concussion."
Haley stilled. Here it comes.
Coach sighed. "I wish I'd known. Not only today, when I played you so aggressively, but last year, when I was recruiting at Hastings." She didn't sound mad as much as she sounded . . . sorry.
Haley didn't speak. The soccer-powerhouse Hastings School, where she'd repeated junior year and ultimately graduated, seemed like a lifetime ago.
"You've made a great contribution this season, Haley, especially considering that you're only a freshman," Coach said. "But for now you need to focus on your health, so you'll be contributing from the bench."
The bench. Followed by the door. As in, Don't let it hit you on the way out, girl.
"The health center is closed on Sundays, but I'm going to see if the doc will come in to check on you. I'll let you know."
She was dismissed. That much was clear. Haley swung the door open to the night air, the sounds of the party under way. She turned to face Coach.
"Thanks for helping me out this afternoon. I really appreciate it. I . . . I'm sorry I've let you down."
Coach didn't look at her. She glanced in her rearview mirror. Flipped the directional, signaling left. She was done.
"I'll call you tomorrow," Coach said. "Try to get some sleep."
Some part of Haley—the angry part, the why-me?-head-throbbing part—wants to tell her mother right now that no impact test on the planet can help her. She's cooked. Stick a fork in the girl—she's done. Benched for the rest of this season, and next year? Probably won't even make the roster.
Some part of her resents carrying this alone. Some part of her wants her mother to feel bad, too. Another part feels sick that she screwed up. What was she thinking, talking about a third concussion in front of Coach?
Before she can say another word to her mother, the door to the room swings open. It's Jenny. Weighed down, as usual, by a massively overstuffed backpack. She glances at Haley lying in bed with the phone to her ear and flashes her an apologetic look. As if she's interrupting. She always acts like she's interrupting. Like it isn't her room, too.
"I need to go," Haley says into the phone. "I promise, I will deal with the forms today." She ends the call before her mother can speak again. She turns off the ringer, closes her eyes, and lays the phone on her chest. It takes too much energy to reach up and replace it on the desk.
She hears the hushed sounds of Jenny moving around.
"She's like a mouse," her teammate Madison had once commented. "I mean, you turn around and she's there. Like, when did she slip in? It's almost creepy." Madison, who does everything at full speed and full volume. "She even looks like a mouse. Kind of little and brown-haired."
"You just don't get the charms of 'petite.' She's actually really pretty," Haley countered. It was a kick-your-own-dog reaction: she gets annoyed with her roommate, but no one else can. She understands Madison's impatience with Jenny. Jenny is überstudious and soft-spoken, while Madison is . . . not. Which, in Haley's case, is a good thing. She loves being Madison's teammate; appreciates being Jenny's roommate. Randomly paired in a sprawling freshman dorm, their paths rarely cross. Haley is either at practice or hanging with her teammates or cramming in the library. Jenny, premed, practically lives in the lab. They navigate their separate lives efficiently and politely.
They are perfect living companions.
Nevertheless, Madison's observation stuck, and before long the whole team referred to her as Jenny-Mouse. Not to her face, luckily. Haley lived in dread that Jenny would overhear one of them.
"Hey," Haley says from the bed, eyes still closed.
"I'm sorry; you didn't have to hang up," Jenny says.
"Actually, you did me a solid."
Jenny doesn't reply. Six weeks of overheard conversations is all Jenny needs to completely get Haley's mom thing. She doesn't comment. But she doesn't judge, either.
"How are you?" Jenny asks. "I heard you got hurt at yesterday's game."
"Bashed heads with a Jeffersonian," Haley says. "Concussion."
"Serious ouch. Third-time serious ouch." Haley hears a creak. Jenny sits on the opposite bed. "Which is why I've been so out of it," she continues. "You've probably been wondering why I've been lying here in the dark."
"No, your friend Madison told me. Listen, I'm really sorry about last night." The bed creaks again. And again. Little jouncy squeaks.
Haley scrolls back to last night: Coach dropping her off. The screaming lights, warm bodies packed in the halls as she pushed her way up to her room and closed the door to the rager that persisted until dawn. She remembers turning the dead bolt, crawling into bed.
Jenny doesn't answer. Jenny doesn't answer for so long that Haley actually turns to face her. The cell phone slides off her chest and hits the floor. When she reaches down to pick it up, she glances at her roommate.
Jenny has drawn her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms tightly around them. She rocks slightly, forward and back. Her gaze is fixed ahead, at nothing in particular, and her eyes brim with tears.
"I got in . . . really late," she says. "And I turned on the overhead light. Anyway, I think I woke you up. You kind of . . . yelled. What the hell, turn that thing off. I'm sorry; I didn't know you'd been hurt, or that you were even in here."
Haley tries to place this. It's disorienting to hear someone describe something you did that you absolutely cannot recall. At least, not the same way. She tries to remember details from Saturday night besides crawling into bed. The furor of the partying going on right outside her door.
A few bits come back. The door did open. A giant maw of white light and thrumming, sound made tangible, unleashed at her. She remembers thinking: Jenny. Being surprised it was Jenny. Because Jenny never stayed out late.
She doesn't remember yelling. She doesn't remember saying anything.
"I'm really sorry," Haley says. "I don't remember that at all, but I was pretty out of it. Light and noise are killer right now. I probably just . . . reacted."
Jenny continues to rock. "It's okay. You felt terrible and I woke you up. I was pretty out of it, too. I drank some stuff at a party and it really hit me."
Haley sits up. Her eyeballs threaten to pop from her skull, but this warrants her attention. Jenny-Mouse at a party?
"Seriously? You partied? My roommate? Jenny, I'm so proud of you!" Haley manages what she hopes is an enthusiastic smile but suspects is more like a grimace.
"Yeah, well, don't be." Jenny presses her face into her knees, blotting her eyes against her jeans.
"Hey," Haley says. "It's okay, I'm not mad. God knows I've come crashing in here late plenty of times."
Jenny doesn't answer. But she does unlock her knees, rise from the bed. She moves to her desk, begins fussing with some papers.
Haley tries again. "So where was this party?"
"Conundrum," Jenny says.
Haley's eyes widen. Conundrum is one of the houses on campus. Some are "interest" houses and named appropriately: Green House for the environmental activists, Light House for students into religion. Others are just named after famous alums, and you could apply as a block and get to live with a pack of your friends.
Conundrum is supposedly an interest house for people from different clubs. An institutional effort to combat the social silo effect of people hanging out only with their teammates or fellow choir members or rock wall buddies. Officially, it's meant to be an eclectic blend of students who wouldn't normally hang out together.
Unofficially, it's people who like to rage. Whenever, for whatever.
"Wow. Go hard, girl."
It's the wrong thing to say. Jenny whirls around.
"Yeah, well, you know what? It sucked. The party sucked! I don't know why I went. This guy I hardly know invited me. And it was a big, huge, stupid mistake." Jenny moves to the closet. She yanks out her towel and grabs her toiletries bag. She really does remind Haley of a frightened mouse.
"Jenny. What's wrong?"
The girl shakes her head hard, her long brown hair obscuring her face. "Nothing. I really don't want to talk about Saturday night. I'm going to take a shower." Jenny bolts from the room. The door slams.
What the hell? Fine. Be psycho. Next time I won't ask.
A fresh wave of pain crashes behind Haley's eyes. She needs to lie down again. But first: water. Haley steps over to the mini-fridge where she's stashed bottles of Poland Spring.
Jenny's backpack rests against the fridge door. Haley grabs the top loop to pull it out of the way . . . and it won't budge. She pulls again, and fresh daggers shoot up her neck into the bottom of her skull.
What is in there? Haley can't help herself: she unzips the bag. It's stuffed with science and math textbooks, the type made with the ultrathin, photograph-rich paper that results in boulder-heavy books. Haley rezips and push-drags the thing out of the way, then retrieves a water. She takes a long, deep swig from the bottle before returning to her bed.
As she settles her head gently on the pillows and closes her eyes, she's struck by how many times she's seen Jenny heft that pack over her shoulders. She's almost never without it; it's like a fifty-pound growth she scurries beneath, from dorm to library to lab.
That girl is way stronger than she looks.
. . .
The walls of Conundrum throb, a testament to the power of stereo speakers. The windows rattle slightly, but no one hears that over the music. Doors slam, water streams in the showers. Deep male laughter erupts in short bursts.
The dusky air outside the house is deceptively still. It is the silence before the starting gun. The final breath before the plunge.
Looming night trembles with possibility.
. . .
Her hair, like milkweed spilling across Richard's chest, smells of wood smoke. A few strands cling to his lips.
Downstairs something clatters in the kitchen. The shower, on the other side of the wall behind their heads, thrums with the uneven staccato of water hitting a plastic tub. The scents of bacon and coffee seep into the room.
"You're like a dog," Carrie always teases him. "I've never met anyone more sensitive to smell."
"Rrrruff," he'd replied the first time she compared him to a dog. He'd buried his face in her neck and taken a good long draw, as if to prove her point. Goat milk soap. The laundry detergent she liked from the natural foods co-op rising from the sheets as he pressed her back into the bed. They were in bed the first time she'd said it.
They were usually in bed.
"Dude," Jordan had said with an exaggerated wink to Richard shortly after their first public appearance as a couple. Jordan had spotted them in the dining hall, seated across the table from each other, silently concentrating on the chocolate chip pancakes stacked on their plates. Carrie didn't usually come to the dining hall. She preferred cooking for herself in the big communal kitchen at Out House, the building where she and all the other students into hiking and camping lived. But that morning there were no eggs in the fridge and she wanted pancakes, so they made the long walk across campus for brunch.
It was a Sunday. Richard remembers this because even though he wasn't particularly hungover that morning, he was dreading the long afternoon ahead: a boatload of number theory to get through and a paper due by noon Monday that he hadn't started. He was thinking he'd need to get back to his room to collect his stuff before heading to the library. He was also thinking, More coffee, and he was about to ask Carrie if she wanted a refill when she reached across for his free hand. Didn't break stride on those pancakes, didn't look up from her plate, but laced her fingers through his and held them there while she ate.
That's pretty much how and when Richard—and everyone, including Jordan, who saw them that morning—knew: they were a thing.
Richard wants to pull the hair off his mouth, but he's afraid Carrie will wake, and he's not ready for that yet. The room is bright—she refuses to draw blinds at night, claiming she likes to rise with the sun—but he's the one always woken up at dawn while she's impervious to the light. Once up, though, she springs to action. She doesn't exactly bolt from bed, but extricates herself from the tangled sheets and heads for the shower before his eyes fully focus.
"Good morning . . . I guess?" he'd said the first time he stayed the whole night and witnessed this routine. She was sifting through her closet, quick-clicking the hangers as she parsed her clothes. She had her back to him, and he was treated to a view of her naked butt. "Whatever happened to pillow talk?"
Carrie pulled out a kimono and slid her slim arms through the sleeves. It had a red, yellow, and black dragon festooned across the back. She turned, smiled at him. Grabbed a mesh bag from the top of her dresser.
"I told Gail I'd meet her for breakfast downtown," Carrie said. She was at the door, hand on knob, when she reconsidered. She returned to the bed. Bent to plant a barely-there kiss on the side of his face. "Plus I'm not really the pillow-talk type," she said. "See you later?"
Before he could answer, she was gone. He listened to her footsteps, heard the bathroom door open and close, and only when he could make out the unmistakable sounds of water gushing through faucet did he get up, retrieve his clothes from the floor, and leave.
Here's what Richard's never told her: sometimes, after they've spent the night together, he doesn't shower. He carries her with him throughout the day, lifting the back of his hand to his face and breathing in her lingering scent. The shampoo she uses. Her skin. He can't get enough of it. As opposed to her, jumping in the shower as soon as she's awake, staying in there too long, and, according to her housemates, using up all the hot water and making them late.
She's right. He must be part dog.
The racket from downstairs increases as voices are added to the mix, and Carrie stirs. Instinctively he tightens his arm around her. Her head, which has been tucked warmly between his chin and shoulder, lifts. The veil of blond hair lifts as well, detaches from his lips.
"Hey," he says.
Carrie squints, wrinkles her nose. Shifts slightly away from him and buries her face in the pillow. "Who the hell is banging the drums?" she moans. She moves as if to rise, but he holds her.
"Just because your housemates are frying tempeh sausage instead of sleeping in doesn't mean you have to get up," he says.
He feels her relax slightly. She widens her eyes. They're burnished brown, flecked with gold.
"It's not tempeh," she mumbles. "It's tofu."
"Same thing," he replies. He waits for her to argue with him, but she closes her eyes.
"How much did we drink last night?" she says instead.
Richard blinks: no pain. He runs his tongue over his teeth: no cotton mouth. His eyes sting a little, but that's probably from the smoke. A bunch of them had been sitting around a campfire they'd made in one of those metal dishes. A very Out-House-y way to pass a Saturday night. As opposed to the usual weekend "activities" in his house.
"Not much," he says. "But I can't speak for you."
She rolls over, stares at the ceiling. "My skull feels like eggshells."
"Want me to get you a glass of water?"
"Oh god. Would you?"
He pulls his arm out from underneath her and flips back the comforter. The cold air in the bedroom hits him like a slap; the students in Out House thrive on keeping the thermostat at igloo levels. It's only October, but nights and mornings are cold. He searches quickly for his boxers. He's already gotten an earful from the Hippie Witch, who shares the floor with Carrie, about seeing him slip into the bathroom without them.
"Nobody needs to see your naked ass first thing in the morning," she cawed, like some crow, the morning he'd just needed to take a piss and mistakenly thought the coast was clear. He doesn't get why Carrie lives with these people. It's not like the house is that great.
"Hippie Witch caught me," he'd reported the morning it happened. Carrie had gotten up and the dragon kimono was on.
"You know I hate when you call her that," she'd said. "She has a name: Mona." She'd brushed past him with the mesh bag, exiting.
"Exactly. Mona the Hippie Witch," he'd directed at her retreating back, but she didn't laugh. She also didn't seek out his company for the next thirty-six hours; not even a text. Then, around eleven o'clock at night, while Richard was studying alone in his bedroom, Carrie knocked. He opened the door. She stepped in and her mouth was on his and she was unbuckling his belt before the latch fully clicked shut.
He figured she'd gotten over the Hippie Witch comment. But he'd learned his lesson.
Words, which Richard batted carelessly among his friends, were powerful things to Carrie. With the guys, he slipped easily into some shorthand that didn't mean much beyond what was just said in the moment, possibly less, since their word choices were reflexive, unconsidered. For Carrie, words were volatile, intentional, Molotov cocktails of meaning.
Deep down, Richard knows she's got a point. He should respect accuracy in language. But choosing words carefully was one thing; navigating minefields of political correctness was another, far more exhausting, thing.
Sometimes he wonders why he's with her. Then Jordan reminds him.
"Older women have . . . knowledge," Jordan had commented the Sunday of the chocolate chip pancakes. He'd tracked Richard down after brunch, discovered him in the library, and dropped his laden backpack on the long table where Richard had just started on his problem sets. Jordan sat. Waited.
Fall 16 Kids’ Indie Next Pick
“Padian’s latest boasts a swift, excellently crafted plot, exceedingly readable prose, and painfully relatable characters. It is especially surprising to find an affectionate involvement as believable as Haley and Richard’s in the middle of a story centering on a rape investigation. Particularly relevant for high school seniors and college freshmen”
—Booklist, starred review
“Powerful, suspenseful and illuminating . . . With intriguing, flawed characters and a gripping storyline, Wrecked by Maria Padian offers readers a view of a college sexual assault case that is as engrossing as it is important . . . valuable, riveting.” —Shelf Awareness for Readers, starred review
“Rape on college campuses is a massive issue right now (hopefully not forever), and Maria Padian’s new novel Wrecked delves into not just the emotional and physical toll it takes on survivors but the bureaucracy and red tape that exists within the structures that are supposed to be stopping it.”
“Padian excels at showing the messy aftermath of a sexual crime in a college community . . . This is a novel about truth and the damage done—to a community, to a person, and to relationships—when hard truths are hidden . . . Wrecked should be assigned to all incoming freshman, especially fraternity members. It’s not enough to have students sit through lectures about sexual assault and rape. They need to learn about it through a story where they see humans instead of statistics, and, as in Wrecked, the very real ripple effects that such a crime can have on an entire campus.”
—Portland (ME) Press Herald
“Outstanding, powerful, and important . . . This is, hands down, one of the best sexual assault reads in YA, and it’s a book that high schoolers of all genders should read.”
—Kelly Jensen, Book Riot
“In the face of recent college rape trials, readers will be rapt and emotionally spent by the end. An important, devastating new perspective on an all-too-timely subject.”
“Revelatory, deeply real, and urgently important.”
—Nova Ren Suma, author of The Walls Around Us
“This is an important and, unfortunately, timely novel . . . This isn’t just a book that all young men and women should read; it’s gripping and human enough that many will want to. Shelve and display alongside Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Courtney Summers’s All the Rage.”
—School Library Journal
“Padian avoids oversimplifying or stereotyping as she explores one such assault and its aftermath, telling a story that combines the most painful, everyday, and emotionally intimate aspects of college life . . . Padian’s expansion of the story to include friends and family lends it visceral realism, allowing readers to imagine themselves in a similar scenario without asking them to envision themselves as either victim or perpetrator.”
“Padian’s boldest effort yet . . . a powerful, dramatic story with strong messages.”
—Morning Sentinel (Waterville, ME)
“A fast-paced read . . . With down-to-earth characters and a relatable setting, Wrecked hits close to home for many high school and college students.”
—The Bowdoin Orient (Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME)
“Padian’s characters come beautifully to life in this enthralling and powerful novel. They allow us to step into their shoes and wonder how we would act, what side we would choose and if right and wrong can be defined as sharply as the world wants them to be.”
—Middlebury Campus (Middlebury College, VT)
“A refreshing look on a subject many of us are unfortunately all too aware of. It keeps the reader enthralled and curious until the very end . . . This book is an easy read for any college student looking for an enlightening, emotional and relatable story.”
—The Royal Purple (University of Wisconsin—Whitewater)
“Chapter after mesmerizing/engaging/compelling chapter. . . I absolutely could not put down this timely, poignant and thought-provoking novel. Wrecked should be required reading for every rising college freshman.”
—Pinestraw Magazine (Southern Pines, NC)
“Terrific . . . It is a nuanced account with superbly realized, realistic characters, and a compelling story-line. This is a book made to be discussed . . . a great book on an important issue.”
—Daily Bulldog (Farmington, ME)
- On Sale
- Sep 5, 2017
- Page Count
- 368 pages
- Algonquin Young Readers