Take your place on the jury. Who will you find guilty?
– Take It Back
[ About the Book ]
The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.
The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.
Whose side would you take?
Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a glittering career at the Bar. All before hanging up her barrister’s wig to help the victims who needed her most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.
Jodie’s own best friend doesn’t even believe her claims that their classmates carried out such a crime. But Zara does. And Zara is determined to fight for her.
Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?
[ My Review ]
Take it Back is a novel by Kia Abdullah, author, journalist and travel writer. Published on 8th August with HQ Stories it is being described as ‘thrilling, brave and explosive…a masterclass in storytelling’ and is most definitely a very thought-provoking read.
Zara Kaleel is a high-flying barrister with a stellar career and a reputation already carved out as one-to-watch. Zara’s path to success was very difficult and at times very very lonely, but she knew what she wanted and was driven in her quest, proving to herself and to her family that she was strong and capable, well able to survive and thrive as an independent woman.
‘Zara Kaleel’s self-image was built on the singular belief that she was different. She was different to the two tribes of women that haunted her youth. She was not a docile housewife, fingers yellowed by turmeric like the quiet heroines of the quiet second-gen literature she hated so much. Nor was she a rebel, using her sexuality to subvert her culture….’
But against all the expectations of the legal community, Zara stepped aside and made a momentous career change, becoming an independent sexual violence advisor, supporting victims of rape at SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) Following the death of her father, a man she had a very complicated relationship with, her successes at the bar lost their shine. The lavish lifestyle that accompanied her achievements felt false, lacking in something, so she hung up her wig instead, hoping to live a more fulfilled life, without the previous financial incentives.
Zara’s life and career take a dramatic turn when she encounters Jodie Wolfe.
Jodie arrives into Zara’s office one day with a shocking story to tell. Jodie had suffered all her life, due to facial deformities, exposing her daily to the nasty comments, the bullying and the taunts of other children. Now at sixteen years of age, Jodie’s life changes in the most traumatic manner after a night out that took a very tragic turn. No one believes Jodie. Her mother, an alcoholic, blames Jodie for how her own life has turned out. She refuses to support Jodie’s claims, thinking them attention-seeking and very unlikely. Even Jodie’s best friend, Nina, is dismissive of Jodie’s claims. But Zara Kaleel thinks differently. Before her she sees a broken teenager, a girl struggling to cope with this new horror, this heinous act of violence that she recounts in detail to Zara.
‘Zara listened as the words from Jodie’s mouth fell like black spiders, crawling over her skin and making her recoil. The sensation unnerved her. Part of Zara’s talent as a caseworker was her ability to remain composed, almost dispassionate, in the face of the painful stories told between these walls. Today, the buffer was breached.’
Zara believes her. Zara makes a decision that will have a huge impact on her, her family and her community. In order to prove this crime of violence against Jodie, Zara knows that she will draw the wrath of many down on her but Zara truly believes that justice must be done, that justice will prevail. But at what cost? Jodie’s claim is against four teenage boys from the Muslim community, the community that Zara herself is from. In taking on this case, Zara is exposing herself to the judgement of her own people and the possible reprisals that will follow.
Take It Back is a riveting, yet very disquieting, read. Kia Abdullah highlights so many themes from racisim to discrimination and what it means to be different. As Zara Kaleel gathers her facts, her belief in Jodie is challenged on numerous occasions as new evidence is revealed. Her strength of conviction, her determination to uncover the real truth is knocked back many times, but Zara is a fighter and not afraid of the ensuing battle.
Take It Back has the reader gripped from the opening chapter. There is an ominous feeling throughout as the reader has to decide who is telling the truth. Layers are revealed as information is drip fed and the tension ramps up. There is a very authentic vibe throughout this book. Kia Abdullah doesn’t flinch in her portrayal of the victim and the defendants. Some of the scenes are difficult to read, uncomfortable and very disturbing.
Take It Back is a powerful read, a remarkable debut. Kia Abdullah has written a convincing and commanding narrative that is both shocking and fascinating. An incredible read…a book I heartily recommend.
[ Bio ]
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. She has contributed to The Guardian, BBC and Channel 4 News, and most recently the New York Times commenting on a variety of issues affecting the Muslim community.
Kia currently travels the world as one half of the travel blog Atlas & Boots, which receives over 200,000 views a month.
Twitter – @KiaAbdullah