“My name is Jasmine Lovely, Jazz usually (unless I’m in trouble), and I’m a rapist. In fact, I’m guilty of more than just rape but, as my lawyer says, in the interests of judicial fairness, we can’t be prejudicial. It’s hard enough to admit to rape. As a girl, it’s exceptionally hard. People look at you blankly. Not that it’s something I admit to in company, like I just did to you. I don’t normally preface my introductions with that abrupt statement, and I’m not part of a self-help group, where you hold your hand up, state your name, then your addiction, affliction, crime.”
In most ways, Jasmine Lovely is a typical fifteen year old girl. She worries about fitting in with her peers, struggles to get along with her parents, and dreams about the day she turns eighteen and can escape her small, semi-rural town. Like a lot of young people, Jasmine also likes to party every now and then. However, her life becomes anything but average after a night of binge drinking in which Jasmine and two male classmates sexually assault an unconscious girl. The next day, Jasmine can’t even remember the incident, thus she is shocked when photos and video footage of her crime begin to emerge online.
- The setting. Saving Jazz is set in Perth, Western Australia – the place in which I’ve lived for my entire life. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a book that was set in WA (high school maybe?!), but my experience reading Saving Jazz has definitely inspired me to pick up more books by local authors. I enjoyed hearing McCaffrey describe places I’d been to and I felt like she created a realistic depiction of Perth. I’d definitely encourage other readers to try out some books set in their home towns!
- The format. The book is written as a series of blog entries by Jazz, and I feel this worked really well. It gives us a good insight into Jazz as a character, and it’s a very straightforward and easy to read style.
- The pacing. McCaffrey sure knows how to start a book off with a bang! The prologue of Saving Jazz begins with a dramatic attempted suicide scene, and then jumps to Jazz’s first blog entry. The first sentence of which is quoted at the top of this post, “my name is Jasmine Lovely… and I’m a rapist.” From that opening line I was hooked, Saving Jazz is a very addictive book and I finished it in only two sittings. At only 297 pages, the book is certainly a quick read.
- The issues. Saving Jazz tackles a few big issues: sexual assault, cyber bullying, slut shaming, and mental health to name a few. As a teacher, McCaffrey knows teenagers well, and has been able to successfully pinpoint some of the topics that we, as a society, should be discussing.
- For the first 70% or so of Saving Jazz, the antagonist is one of the perpetrators of the assault – Tommy, the character who disseminated the photo and video footage at the start of the book. Then, over two thirds of the way into the book, a new villain shows up, and he’s even more horrible than Tommy. As the book is quite close to the end by this point, his storyline is resolved very quickly and unsatisfactorily. The existence of this character was completely unnecessary. It just felt like his storyline was a bonus plot just tacked onto the end of the main plot to draw out the book.
- Unsatisfactory ending. I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say that elements of the plot felt unresolved. McCaffrey spent a lot of time building up Jazz’s relationships with certain characters, but then half way through the book she leaves them behind and never looks back. I would have liked to have seen Jazz find some closure with the other characters, in particular the girl she assaulted.
- At the start of the book, Jazz is fifteen, by the time it finishes she’s twenty five, yet the book isn’t even three hundred pages long. The book often felt quite rushed, it could have been a lot more fleshed out, and at times McCaffrey didn’t go into quite as much depth as I would have liked. I also feel McCaffrey didn’t explore the emotions of her characters enough, which made it difficult to feel engaged with the story.
As much as I enjoyed the start of the book, the weird turn at the end with the new antagonist came close to ruining it for me. It just seemed so pointless and random. I also feel the book should have been a lot darker. McCaffrey attempts to tackle some big issues, but she ends up barely skimming the surface of them. Asking for It by Louise O’Neill and What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler are two books built on a very similar premise, yet both are significantly more powerful and effecting because they go deeper into the issue. Asking for It reduced me to a sobbing mess with its emotional rawness and depictions of violence. And honestly, I feel like a book about rape should be that powerful. I didn’t like What We Saw as much as Asking for It, but it did a much better job than Saving Jazz at exploring the issues around sexual assault, such as patriarchy and consent.