This is Laura Bates’ new addition to the world of young adult fiction. For those of you who’ve been following my account for a while, you’ll know I co-founded and present on a literary podcast and interview show, Babble. But on Friday 24 September, I interviewed Laura at my first ever literary festival, The Wigtown Book Festival. Has anyone been to Wigtown? It is apparently the book capital of Scotland! My event is virtual and I can’t make it up from London, but I’m still buzzing. Watch it for free here.
Onto the book, because I think everyone’s going to be pretty excited about this one. For starters, while it’s arguably aimed at a young adult reader, I think it’s an entertaining and thought-provoking read for anyone. After seven teens (a mix of basketball players and cheerleaders on their way back from a tour) are plane-wrecked on a desert island, left to fend for themselves and more importantly, find food and fresh water before the plane meals run out, things get rather intense.
With so much to think about in terms of their immediate survival and rescue, some terrible incidents that occurred at a party the night before get swept aside… But someone is angry, and they’re going to punish their teammates for it until the truth finally comes out. Who is responsible? The teens decide via a sort of island kangaroo court what they’re going to do about it.
When I first heard the premise of the book, I was kind of expecting a modern Lord of the Flies. It would’ve have been criminal not to nod to it in some way (and our protagonist Hayley does just that, to mild acknowledgement from her classmates who didn’t seem to read the setwork), but it’s not quite so much a parable of the savagery that ensues when societal structures are removed. Instead, flipped on its head, it almost goes so far as to examine how savage civilisation is, and only once the teens are on the island are they able to truly connect, reflect and engage with their gendered, violence-fuelled existence off the island.
The Trial is complex and insightful. It’s not a handbook on consent and sexism, but rather a case study of it and how it influences teenagers especially, as well as how those formative experiences keep our society repeating its mistakes. And of course, it solidified my conviction that I would not survive on coconuts and slimy fruit for very long on a desert island…
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