Title: Take It Back
Author: Kia Abdullah
Publisher: HQ, Harper Collins UK
Publication Date: 8th August 2019
The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.
The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.
Whose side would you take?
Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a glittering career at the Bar. All before hanging up her barrister’s wig to help the victims who needed her most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.
Jodie’s own best friend doesn’t even believe her claims that their classmates carried out such a crime. But Zara does. And Zara is determined to fight for her.
Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?
I’ve seen Take It Back everywhere lately, it seems to have garnered quite a lot of hype and my expectations were accordingly quite high. Generally these expectations were met but there were some aspects of the book that didn’t totally work for me. Take It Back is, in my opinion, a bit of a mixed bag – but still very much worth reading.
This is an intense book and there is no messing about before diving right into the harshness of this criminal case. Zara is an ex big shot lawyer who now works with sexual assault victims. Zara is the focal point of the story as she supports Jodie, the victim, through legal proceedings whilst also encountering pushback from some in the muslim community for sticking by Jodie who has accused four muslim boys of a shocking crime. The character of Zara is one of the things I had some trouble with. I think we, as readers, are supposed to be impressed by Zara and her bravery. And – honestly – I did admire her strength and confidence but I couldn’t really connect to her character as someone to root for. She is obviously very good looking and intelligent, which isn’t a problem at all, but throughout the book it just felt like she is very much aware of her beauty and thinks it makes her ‘better’ than some people. Maybe it was just me but there was a distinct lack of humility and quite a bit of snobbery in Zara’s personality which consequently made it harder for me to fully empathise with her at times.
Putting aside my issues with Zara, there are also dimensions of Take It Back that I felt were really successful. The court case was smartly written and demonstrated the incredibly harmful ways victims of sexual assault are put through the ringer during a court case. I also think this book is extremely relevant to the current social climate. The issues portrayed in the story concerning race, class and gender were so tense and compelling. It is not an easy to figure out read in the sense that there are so many shades of grey at play. Every time the reader decides who to believe, something else will happen to throw their certainty into question.
Overall, whilst Take It Back was not quite as good as I wanted it to be, there was still a lot to appreciate about it and I think it’s likely to be one of the most discussed books this summer. I’m glad I read it and I would definitely suggest giving it a go, especially if you enjoy crime fiction that doesn’t have easy or neat solutions.
Take It Back by Kia Abdullah
I received this e-arc through Netgalley. My review is my own honest opinion.
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