Take It Back by Kia Abdullah #BookReview #BlogTour

The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses four boys of something unthinkable.
The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.
Someone is lying.
Former barrister Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, takes up Jodie Wolfe’s case; she believes her, even if those closest to Jodie do not.
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?

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Take It Back by Kia Abdullah today. Many thanks to the author and to Lucy from Harper Collins for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

I don't recall ever reading a novel which gave me such conflicted feelings as Take It Back. Kia Abdullah has written a powerfully insightful, heartbreaking story for our time and it is brilliant.
When Jodie Wolfe accuses four boys of raping her, the default position is to believe her. That she has severe facial deformities and an alcoholic mother who is unable to give Jodie the support she so desperately needs, makes her situation all the more poignant. Her account of the attack is devastating and her case is taken up by Zara Kaleel, a former barrister now supporting rape victims at a sexual assault referral centre. The four Muslim boys who allegedly attacked Jodie attend the same school as her and are all from immigrant families. It is this point which led to me having those conflicted feelings. We live at a time when certain figures are eager to find any reason to blame immigrants - and particularly Muslims - for all the ills in our society and they wilfully focus on the sexual abuse cases which back up their bigotry. I wanted to believe Jodie but if she was telling the truth, it meant she had been subjected to a horrifying attack. However, it would also add fuel to an already spreading fire, aided and abetted by a media only too willing to further fan the flames of division and hatred. If she was lying, much of the damage would already be done and the same sections of the Press so keen to criticize a multicultural society would instead seize the opportunity to focus on false rape claims by women.
As the main protagonist, Zara has to negotiate these very sensitive waters and as a Muslim herself, she becomes caught up in the angry repercussions of what becomes a high profile criminal case. Despite her successes, Zara has her own issues to deal with and her decisions regarding both her personal and professional life have led to her having a complicated relationship with her family. Her actions also give plenty of ammunition to those who claim she is not a 'good Muslim' and has let down their community. In a book which is compelling throughout, it is arguably Zara's situation which is the most thought-provoking aspect of the story. She believes that just because she shares a skin colour or belief system with the accused boys, it doesn't mean that they are incapable of evil. She rejects the suggestion that because Muslims are so gleefully targeted, a de-facto support system is important as it feeds into the idea that they are all 'one big, featureless mass.'
Zara is a superb character but the rest of the cast is equally as fascinating. The family and friends of the main characters all have an important role to play in the proceedings and are authentically brought to life. Jodie's claims are only too credible even when elements of doubt or inconsistencies with her account of the night are revealed. She has not had an easy life and it's very easy to feel sympathetic towards her and anger at those who have hurt her. However, that doesn't mean the boys are guilty and throughout the book I switched between believing Jodie and suspecting that they may actually be innocent. Their stories remain consistent and although the privileged and rather arrogant leader of their group, Amir and the belligerant Hassan are hard to like and easy to suspect, the other two boys, Mo and Farid are gentler, more sympathetic characters who are very clearly affected by the case.
Take It Back is a bold, tense and sharply observed courtroom drama and an unsettling, challenging reflection on contemporary issues in our society. I highly recommend it.

Take It Back is published by HQ, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer. She has contributed to The Guardian, BBC, and Channel 4 News, and most recently The New York Times commenting on a variety of issues affecting the Muslim community. Kia currently travels the world as one half of the travel blog Atlas & Boots, which receives over 200,000 views per month.
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