A Story About Mistakes, Slut Shaming and Redeeming Friendships
“The Year We Fell Apart” by Emily Martin is about a girl who makes mistakes, continues to make mistakes and continues to run from them. She’s human and because of that I love her. The main character, Haper, is uniquely open and transparent. While I don’t agree with all of her actions, I also don’t judge her and certainly won’t ever shame her. She messes up. Don’t we all. This is a story about a girl who fucks up. Again and again and is trying to find a way to survive through her mistakes, to recover and repair all that she has damaged. It’s a story about a broken heart and the love that she shattered in the process of tearing everything around her down. It’s a story about friends and the power friendship has to heal and to hurt, but mostly to heal and to grow.
The truth of the matter is this: Harper messes up. But don’t we all? This is a story about a girl who fucks up. Again and again and is trying to find a way to survive through her mistakes, to recover and repair all that she has damaged. It’s a story about a broken heart and the love that she shattered in the process of tearing everything around her down. It’s a story about friends and the power friendship has to heal and to hurt, but mostly to heal and to grow.
To me, this is a story about a girl who fucks up. Again and again. It’s about a girl who is trying to find a way to survive through her mistakes, and recover/repair all that she has damaged. It’s a story about a broken heart and the love that she shattered in the process of tearing everything down around her. It’s a story about friends and the power friendship has to heal and to hurt, but mostly to heal and to grow.
With everything that Harper goes through, my heart hurt so much through this book. At every turn, I just wanted something to go right. I wanted some sort of victory for her and with every punch that just kept rolling, every wrong turn she’d make or poor choice or bad situation she’d get herself into, I’d wince and read on because I was rooting for her, always. I was always hopeful that this girl, strong in heart and spirit would and could make it through this tough time in her life.
I think this book is important to read for a few reasons.
The first is that it highlights the importance of what it feels like to be on the opposite side of slut shaming. Let’s get one thing clear. Slut shaming. It’s wrong. It’s not okay. It needs to stop. Period. Bad/poor/wrong/questionable decisions are just that, they don’t need to be highlighted and broadcasted for all the world to see. In a society that shames women for everything we do: kiss one guy you’re a slut, kiss two guys you’re a slut, kiss eight guys you’re a slut, or kiss no guys and guess what, somehow we’re still sluts. Well shit, man, no matter what we do we’re a slut. This rhetoric and shaming of women needs to end. Sure, did I want Harper to be more conscientious of the environments she was placing herself into? Yes. Of course. But not because I was afraid she’d be considered a slut. Because I didn’t want her to get hurt. Both metaphorically and actually, rape is still a problem people, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about underage drinkers or of age drinkers. Sex without consent is rape. End of the freaking story.
So in Harper’s case, did I cringe when I felt like she was putting herself in a dangerous situation? Yes. Yes, I did. Because I saw the environment she was in, surrounded by guys leering at her, treating her like she was replaceable. I didn’t feel like she was safe the moment she walked into some of these parties and yet she still behaved like she was. To me, it’s unfortunate that girls even have to worry about this. She should have been safe. She should have been able to have fun without worrying, without thinking the guy next to her will try something, that he’ll try to take advantage of the situation and her supreme inebriated state, but that’s not the society that we live in as unfortunate as that is.
So yes, I winced everytime Harper made what would be considered poor decisions because it was clear that she wasn’t safe to begin with. However, I believe that this is important to read about, that while we should be able to feel safe in party situations the sad truth is most times we aren’t. According to a 2014 survey conducted by the CDC, about 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetimes, where nearly half of the victims know their assailants at least as an acquaintance (US News, 2014). So is this book about rape and being victimized? No, it isn’t. But does Harper make some decisions that put her in situations that aren’t safe? Yes. And it is important that her story is read and that she is empathized with.
The second reason I think this story is important is that this book is mainly about making mistakes and learning that at some point, we all have to face them. That sooner or later, no matter how fast we run, how long we run for, or how far we get from our mistakes and slip-ups, they will always be there lurking in the shadows and there is no such thing as running from the past. That eventually, we all must face what we’ve done and make amends. That doing so is the responsible thing to do, and, no, it is not the easiest and, yes, it’s heart-breaking and it hurts and regardless, we must still do the right thing. We must set things right, take responsibility for the wrongs we’ve done, the part we play in situations regardless of how justified we think we are and regardless of our endless list of excuses for why we do what we do and fix what is broken.
The third reason I think this story is important and beautiful is because of the relationships. The power friendship can have to heal and to hurt, but most importantly to heal. Harper has friends. A select few who are loyal to her despite and regardless of everything. As they should be. This story conveys a message that through tough times and not despite but regardless of the many things we do to push people away, those who love us will never give up. That love and friendship is a bond unbreakable, that no matter what, friendship is something to be fought for and worked through.
It’s abundantly clear that I loved this book. Adored it. It broke my heart and at every corner it did so over and over again.
I connected to Harper not because I could understand everything she did or why she did them, but because I wanted everything to work out for her. I wanted her to be okay. I wanted her to stop hurting because more than anything, it was painfully evident that this girl was hurting deep down and she just didn’t know how to say it. She didn’t know how to put it into words that anyone could understand because she was ashamed of what she would say and what those words would say about herself. And that is why I loved this character. She’s is imperfect. Like myself. She is flawed. Like myself. Do we share the same flaws and imperfections? No, we don’t. But I can understand that feeling of making mistakes that you think are too big to come back from and that is why this story is important.
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