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Book Review: Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.

Page Street. Oct. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781645673323.

Gr 9 Up–A sexual assault, the secrets surrounding it, and the resulting trauma reshape everything high school senior Owen understands to be true. Switching between earlier diaries and the current time line, Owen, who is on the autism spectrum, details his relationship with his girlfriend, do-gooder perfectionist Lily. Neither Lily nor their friends blink when Owen comes out as bisexual, but the night he reveals this information on social media he is sexually assaulted while on a class trip. He tries to keep the report of his rape and the ensuing investigation secret from Lily, as things between them are already strained and stressful. Though Owen knows who raped him, he refuses to tell the school, his parents, or the authorities. He grapples with what happened to him while trying to figure out if he can do the relationship reset that Lily desperately wants. Owen works through the hurdles that trauma brings, eventually confronting his abuser and revealing their identity to his parents. The intricate layers, stunning revelations, and powerful emotions in this story will captivate readers as well as help them overlook some of the flaws—mainly uneven writing. The structure of the novel, partially told through diary entries, successfully adds suspense and shows how difficult it can be to move forward and just exist in the aftermath of a horrific incident.

VERDICT A painful and important look at toxic relationships, rape, power, and control from a vantage point not often seen in YA.

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