I actually started writing this review while I was still reading Love and Vandalism by Laurie Boyle Crompton. I just needed to gush about this book.
I spent a few days slowly reading the first nine chapters or so, not really getting into the plot. I did like the main character, Rory, which is what kept me interested. Then, boom. The reason for Rory’s character, the reason she paints badass lions all over her hometown, the reason her relationship with her father went to shit, all of it is explained in one explosive confrontation.
I felt that thing, that tug, telling me I needed to gobble down the rest of this book. Even though the main love interest kind of gets on my nerves. But, hey, that means the character has a personality. A personality I may not be attracted to, but a personality all the same. He isn’t just your usual cookie-cutter fiction man. Which is good, because Rory isn’t some typical princess-type, either. Nor is she of the magical, lost-princess variety. She is her own dreadlock-wearing, lion-painting self.
Rory’s character arc was also impressive. Not in an unrealistic way, either; Crompton makes Rory’s character flaws and her arc very realistic. In fact (spoilers ahead), Rory’s description of her rape and her reaction to it were extremely accurate, and I felt Crompton handled it well. Rape isn’t a back-alley affair. Rory didn’t even fight after it became obvious that the boy wasn’t taking no for an answer. He literally laughed at her when she said she changed her mind, and her brain decided to play dead (well, play sleeping) rather than try to fight, which is a realistic reaction if you have any first- or second-hand experience with survivors of assault or rape.
It did bother me a bit that when Scott tries to hook up with Rory and pretty angrily shames her for not having sex with him. She holds her ground, which is good character development, especially since she tells him to his face that what he did was wrong. But it was sort of portrayed as a “boys will be boys” moment as well as a character development, “now she’s confident enough to not be raped” moment. While I truly appreciate the positive examples that were set in Love and Vandalism, I think the idea that a woman has to be strong enough to not be raped sets a bad example for both sexes. We should be taught that men should be strong enough not to rape, and to respect consent (or lack thereof). It is not a woman’s responsibility to be strong enough to keep fighting over and over. One ‘no’ should suffice.
To be fair to Crompton, though, the scene was well-written, and it’s hard to fit in a long essay about rape and sexism when you’re writing a fiction novel. Rory’s character development was still very impressive, and Scott’s almost-assault getting swept under the rug isn’t a huge issue with the book’s plot or writing style. (End spoilers).
Even as lover of YA fantasy, I appreciate Crompton’s writing in Love and Vandalism. Once I hit that explosive “oh” moment, I finished the book in a couple of hours. I didn’t want it to end.
But end it did, and at least it wasn’t a cliffhanger or some other kind of cruel ending. I am satisfied that Rory is picking up the pieces of her life and moving forward. In fact, it gives me hope.
Crompton and all who lent her a hand in the publishing process have done an amazing job. Four solid stars from me.