Take it Back is an explosive and powerful novel of truth and lies, based around the alleged gang rape of a white girl with severe facial deformities by a group of young Muslim boys. Jodie Wolfe is the 16 year old girl in question. Life is hard enough for Jodie already; not only is she used to the mocking stares and comments from her peers, but she also has to contend with living on a rundown London estate with her alcoholic mother who is clearly ashamed of her daughter’s appearance, and openly blames Jodie for her father’s absenteeism.
Zara Kaleel was a young hotshot lawyer from a traditional Muslim family with a shining career and financial rewards aplenty when she upped and left it all behind to work at a charity for abused women, much to the chagrin of her friends and (partially estranged) family. Jodie’s case lands on Zara’s desk and she knows immediately it’s going to be a game-changer. She believes Jodie is telling the truth, and encourages her to step up, and take her attackers all the way through the legal process. Although a courtroom drama in many ways, a lot of the action, and story building takes place outside of the legal arena.
The boys that Jodie accuses, are Muslim boys from hard-working immigrant families who each deny the charges. Jodie is a disabled white girl from a broken home – even her own mother doesn’t believe her. It’s obvious that thanks to the numerous themes running through the case that it isn’t going to play out well in the media or on social media where it’s bound to appear sooner rather than later, injunctions be damned.
The ripples appear quickly and run deep. Zara is branded a traitor to her faith and community. Her personal life comes under intense scrutiny, her integrity questioned, and her life threatened. Jodie is pilloried and mocked so badly online that she wants to stop the process, wishing she could ‘Take it Back’. The accused boys are branded and face seeing their hard-fought for lives fall down around them before they ever really got a chance to get going.
Kia Abdullah is an incredible storyteller. This novel is multi-layered, thoughtful and complex, and as I was reading I was flip-flopping between who I believed. Every chapter I read made me see the characters differently, and I changed my mind so many times. When I got to the end and found out what really happened on that fateful night, it was believable, and sad. It’s not an easy read, but it’s an excellent one.