Note: This novel addresses sexual assault and suicide.
Santa; by Nicola Mar tells the heartbreaking story of June, who deals with daily bullying at school over her weight. One night, she sneaks out to a party with her best friend; the night ends in her being taken advantage of and raped by the football team captain and a group of his friends.
As a result, June descends into a deep depression that leads to multiple suicide attempts. Her only real escape is during her brief visits by an angel named Santa, in her dreams. Despite her turmoil, she eventually finds strength through the friend no one else knows about.
The novel, written simply, is still undeniably raw and real, resonating with the society we live in now, where the existence of cyberbullying means victims are unable to retreat or deny the emotional effects for very long. June not only has to face the entire school knowing what happened to her (although the captain tells everyone it was consensual, to make things worse) by word of mouth, but photos of her are also shared across the internet.
In addition, June is constantly made to feel as though it’s her fault for not speaking up sooner, or that she didn’t provide enough proof that the attack wasn’t consensual, both issues women commonly face when they report assault.
As you would expect, it’s heart-wrenching to read, even more so because this is based on a true story and, without a doubt, she shares similar experiences with young women and men across the world.
I’d venture to say that more novels like this need to be written--these stories cannot be ignored. Bullying is very real, and so is the psychological trauma that many never recover from.
As Bullying Prevention Month comes to an end, let the idea behind it continue. Sometimes survivors of bullying simply need one voice to speak up for them, to defy the majority and let them know they aren’t alone.