ARC Review: Privilege, Mary Adkins
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Privilege, Mary Adkins
Pub. Date: March 10, 2020
*This Advanced Reader’s E-copy was provided through NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishers, free of charge.*
TW: Sexual assault, description of oral sex
Privilege by Mary Adkins brings me back to my college campus days, right up to the messy side of politics that branded my senior year. This eye-opening novel takes us into the lives of three girls: school-smart Annie, questioning Bea, and hardworking Stayja. These young women are bonded by the presence of Carter University in their lives, whether as students or employees. They become further bonded through Annie’s assault by a mutual friend of all three and must decide how to continue their lives both on campus and off. One thing is for sure - Annie, Bea, and Stayja are forced to grow and mature as young women living in today’s climate.
The aesthetics of the book are not much to talk about - the cover, much like the subject matter, is a tribute to college politics. Carter University’s seal shows a statue of Justice, presumably blindfolded, alluding to the Carter’s ever-present Justice Scholars program mentioned in the book. There is not much to the overall image of Privilege, which allows the reader to focus solely on the content.
The book itself is very enjoyable, but don’t assume that it is a light fluff piece. All throughout Privilege are discussions about sexism, racism, and how women are affected after a sexual assault. If anything, the fluff bits of the novel strengthen the heavy events and their effects, just as real life is a balance between the good and the bad. I thoroughly enjoyed the juxtaposition of light events, such as Annie joking with her best friend Matty about her taste in men, with the darker times, an example being of Annie telling Matty that her boyfriend (Tyler) raped her.
Another positive point about Privilege is the characterization that Adkins presents. It is written through the eyes of three women: Annie, a Carter student who recently had cosmetic surgery to reduce the scars on her legs; Bea, a Justice League scholar who wants to be just like her professor; and Stayja, a campus coffee shop employee who is going to community college for nursing. These three women are all linked by their association with Tyler Brand, a fourth-year student who: assaults Annie, is provided legal expertise by Bea, and comforted by Stayja. Each woman is written differently enough that at the start of the chapter, even without the name title at the top of the page, you could tell who is speaking. However, these women are not so different that they cannot be friends, and it is a refreshing look at female empowerment in friendships that is not inherently centered men-bashing.
I have heard it said that writers can either write wonderful characters or wonderful scenes - that there is no between. I am very happy to say that Adkins proves this old motto wrong in Privilege. The language used in the actual book is very clear and concise. Adkins does a wonderful job of presenting the scene so the reader can be there alongside her characters, all without sacrificing the emotions or thoughts brought up by the characters. She even includes several sections from a mini newsletter from Carter to bring a more authentic feel to the story.
My only complaint isn’t even a complaint per say, as it is actually a content warning. This story does heavily with sexual assault and the emotional consequences. Adkins does not shy away from this, going from describing the actual scene in semi-explicit detail to describing Annie’s emotional turmoil over the rape. She also brings out the grey morality that can surround people who are not directly linked to the actual event(s) and asks us the important question of who to believe and what to do when your beliefs may not align with your choices.
Overall, I would give Privilege four stars. The only reason to not go the whole way is because at times the story did drag through events that I did not consider important to the story. However, I recognize that is a personal preference rather than a legitimate complaint. If there was a way to give it four and a half stars on Netgalley, I would have. The story is serious, but not so serious that you are repulsed by it. In addition, Adkin’s language and characters are really quite lovely.
If you are looking for more books to read that are similar to Privilege, I recommend:
Frat Girl, by Kiley Roache
Wrecked, by Maria Padian (TW: rape/sexual assault)
I Hate Everybody But You, by Gaby Dunn (TW: depression)
Let me know you think of my review in the comments below! I appreciate you taking the time to read this post. Until next time!