Modern Lit: Testimony, by Anita Shreve

TestimonySex, lies, and videotape, again

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A shocking teen sex scandal forms the axis of this story set at a private high school school in Vermont. Four students, 3 upperclass boys and a freshman girl, find their lives changed forever when a drunken party degenerates into a menage a quatre, and videotape the incident.  The following morning, the tape’s posted online. But it’s not only the participants who must deal with the repercussions, and, under the guise of a series of interviews, Anita Shreve allows everyone – parents, other students, police, faculty – to relate their takes on what happened. As the story unfolds, secrets are unearthed, relationships are irretrievable damaged, and psychological burdens are revealed. This choppy sort of narrative prevents the reader from discovering the truth too early in the novel. Surprisingly, while the portrayal of the boys in the video is generally sympathetic, the girl, whose self esteem at the age of 14 is rooted in her sexuality, receives little concern and most of the blame. This is a motivation-driven novel, and despite the multiplicity of characters and viewpoints, the protagonist alone is given depth. Shreve is masterful at conveying strong emotion, and as in most of her other books, in Testimony she manages to steer clear of melodrama.

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