Book Review – Activist   

by Louisa Reid

Published by Guppy Books

Cassandra, narrator of this powerful verse novel, is a reluctant sixth former in a prestigious mixed school, formerly all boys, where toxic culture simmers.

Driven by her own experience, and by nature a feisty “shouter” she campaigns forcibly for acknowledgement that some of the boys at school treat the girls like property – and some of the graphic accounts of physical exploitation and social media comments are deeply disturbing. It’s balanced though, not all the boys are exploitative bullies; some are decent enough.

Inevitably, flanked by her delightful group of strong friends, she antagonises the school’s senior management, upsets her mother and worries her delightful grandparents (who are paying her school fees). 

Eventually, with the support of her apparently louche and initially irritating older brother who gradually comes to life, she manages to get some results (publicity, court cases, sackings etc) and win the support of her family. 

Most importantly she gets longed for approval from her absent father – her relationship, or lack of it with him is threaded through the novel like a bass line in a piece of music.

This is an important, carefully nuanced book and I hope it will help to give rape victims and abused, sexually harassed girls the courage to speak up. There’s a Ms Lark – willing to help and put her job on the line – in every school if you look for her.  

This novel was inspired by the true stories which began to emerge on the website Everyone’s Invited in 2020 and published last summer.

Review by Susan Elkin