Maria Padian’s YA novel Wrecked follows the aftermath of a sexual assault on a college campus, and EW is exclusively premiering an excerpt from the book, out this week.
The story is set in motion by a sexual encounter between Jenny and Jordan at a college party. Jenny comes home to her dorm room shaken, while Jordan comes back and brags to his roommate Richard about the girl he just hooked up with. Soon, Jenny formally accuses Jordan of rape, and Richard and Jenny’s roommate Haley find themselves on opposite sides of the case. With the conflicting perspectives of the people involved and the college itself, it seems impossible that the truth will ever come out.
“I’ve always been fascinated with how a story changes depending on the narrator, and how ‘truth’ varies with point of view,” Padian said in a statement. “It struck me that our opinions are heavily formed by what we bring to the table, biases we might not realize we have.”
The book is out Oct. 4 from Algonquin Young Readers. Read the excerpt below.
Excerpt from Wrecked by Maria Padian
Haley’s not a hugger.
Never has been. So when she opens the door to their room and finds Jenny waiting, she is startled by her own response.
Haley drops her pack and walks straight to where Jenny sits on her bed, open laptop resting on her knees, a box of tissues at the ready. She ignores all that, even the stray, used tissues. She ignores the polite, respectful distance that has made them such good roommates and slides herself onto the thin wedge of bedside next to Jenny, the computer tilting dangerously. She feels her own eyes fill as she throws her arms around the girl’s shoulders and, wordless, squeezes tight.
Oh, Jen. I’m so, so sorry, she doesn’t say out loud.
Her roommate shakes with silent sobs. Haley just holds on. She doesn’t know how long.
When they finally move apart, Haley stays on the bed. Jenny’s face is creased and red-streaked. Her eyelids look raw.
“I feel terrible. I had absolutely no idea,” Haley says quietly.
“How could you? I didn’t tell you. I could barely admit it to myself.”
“You’re being really brave.”
Jenny angles her head away. “I don’t know. If I’m so brave how come I didn’t fight him off? How come I let this happen to me?” Fresh tears begin to form in her eyes. “I don’t feel brave. I feel stupid.”
When Richard hears the soft knock on his door late that night, he doesn’t move. The handle turns, and his door opens a crack.
It’s Jordan. Who looks awful.
“Can I come in?” Jordan asks as he walks in and sits on the bed.
“What’s up?” Richard asks. This is not Jordan’s usual Wednesday night face. For one thing, he’s sober.
Jordan runs his hand through his hair. “Listen, I have to ask you something. Do you remember last week, when you and I were talking about the party? I told you about that girl I met? The freshman?”
“Did you repeat that to anyone?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, did you or didn’t you?” Jordan demands. “I need you to be sure.”
“Whoa.” Richard puts his hands up. “I’m sure I did not repeat what you said.”
Relief spreads over Jordan’s face.
“Mind telling me what’s up with you tonight?”
“I just need to know, okay? Something’s going on.”
A boulder of dread thuds in Richard’s gut.
“That girl,” Jordan says, “the one I told you about? She’s telling people I raped her.”
Richard’s brain goes numb, processes in slow motion. Responding, in words, is not an option.
“Late last night, I’m checking my email,” Jordan continues, “and I see a message from the Dean of Student’s office, telling me I need to be there at eight o’clock this morning to talk about violating community standards, or something. I assumed it was more stuff about dorm damage. So I go there and they send me in to see this woman named Carole Patterson. She tells me I’ve been reported for sexual misconduct. She says I have three days to respond to the charges, and then the college is going to investigate.”
Jordan tosses his hands up. “I was, like, what? Hold on. Somebody is accusing me of rape?“ And she basically says, yeah, and I’m scrolling back in my mind to who I’ve been with the last few weeks because you’d think if you raped somebody, you’d kind of know it. But I’m drawing a complete blank, so I ask her, ‘Who the hell is saying this?’ And she tells me it’s that girl. She’s telling them I forced her to have sex, and now the college is doing this whole investigation.”
“That’s messed up, man.” Richard says. “What are you going to do?”
“Just spent the last three hours in a hotel room with my parents discussing that. They pretty much flew up the highway with my lawyer after I called them.”
“They brought a lawyer?”
“Uncle Bruce,” Jordan says. “Who’s a real hard ass. Until you need a hard ass. He wants me to fold,” Jordan says, spitting out the words. “Can you believe it? He says colleges hate this sort of thing and just want to make the problem go away. He says all a girl has to do these days is point her little finger and bam! Dude’s expelled. He says I should withdraw. ‘Get while the going’s good, start fresh somewhere else.” Jordan makes this sound, like a snort. “My dad keeps saying stuff like, ‘But Jordan’s a legacy! A double legacy!’ Like his crappy thousand-dollar-a-year donation makes a difference? Give me a break.”
Richard tries not to react to this. Even with financial aid, his parents struggle to pay his tuition. “So what are you going to do?” he repeats.
“Here’s what I’m not going to do: act like I did it and withdraw,” Jordan says. “I didn’t rape that girl, and I’m sure as hell not slinking out of here like I did. If I quit, and don’t defend myself? I look like some chicken shit, running away!”
“Can’t argue with that,” Richard says.
They sit quietly for a moment.
Then Jordan clears his throat. “In three days I tell Carole Patterson, in writing, that I didn’t rape Jenny James.”
Jenny. It’s the first time Richard’s heard her name.
“Thing is ….” Jordan pauses.
Richard feels his chest tighten. Here it comes. Jordan wants something.
“My uncle says if I decide to fight the charge, I can’t say that I had sex with her.”
“How are you going to manage that? Since … you did.”
Jordan sits forward on the edge of the bed.
“See, that’s what I need you to forget.”