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#Book Review #Take it Back (Zara Kaleel #1) by Kia Abdullah


From author Kia Abdullah, Take It Back is a harrowing and twisting courtroom thriller that keeps you guessing until the last page is turned.

One victim.
Four accused.
Who is telling the truth?

Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a brilliant legal career. But her decisions came at a high cost, and now, battling her own demons, she has exchanged her high profile career for a job at a sexual assault center, helping victims who need her the most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.

When Jodie, a sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, accuses four boys in her class of an unthinkable crime, the community is torn apart. After all, these four teenage defendants are from hard-working immigrant families and they all have proven alibis. Even Jodie’s best friend doesn’t believe her.

But Zara does–and she is determined to fight for Jodie–to find the truth in the face of public outcry. And as issues of sex, race and social justice collide, the most explosive criminal trial of the year builds to a shocking conclusion.

Published December 8th 2020 by St. Martin’s Press (first published August 8th 2019)



My thoughts:
Content triggers: sexual assault, racism, misogyny, parental neglect, bullying.

I won’t lie- this was not an easy read. I had to put the book down several times, because I needed a short break to cope with my feelings. And then I’d be drawn back into this compelling story.

Zara Kaleel, Zara the Brave, a brilliant barrister, left her high-flying job that gave her every kind of imaginable privilege to work as a legal advisor in a voluntary organisation that helps victims of sexual assault. Zara, who never stopped battling her own demons, knows how difficult the process of getting justice for her sixteen-year-old client will be. Jodie accuses four Muslim boys from good, hard-working families of sexually assaulting her and Zara believes the girl with all her heart. Zara knows what she is going to go against: people who believe that nobody would want to have sexual relations with Jodie, who has severe facial deformities, as if rape is not about using violence to gain power and humiliate the victim, people who will see her going against those who already have to fight discrimination and disadvantage, people who will use this drama and tragedy for their own selfish aims. Even Jodie’s mother and her best friend don’t believe the girl and think she made up the story to get attention. Even Zara’s family accuses her of dragging their good name through tabloids in a rebellious attempt to defy tradition.

Kia Abdullah lets us see the families of the defendants and their lives, Jodie and her daily struggle to keep up believing that there will be better times ahead for her, Jodie’s alcoholic mother, Zara’s volatile relationship with her own family, based on her past and her uncertain present. Some parts of the narrative are so vivid they will always stay with me: Zara fleeing her abusive husband to escape her arranged marriage, her mother talking about the sacrifice first generation immigrant women made by putting up with blatant sexism and discrimination to make sure their children had freedom to live their lives differently, the mother of one of the boys saying that she isn’t blind to her son’s faults, but will always protect him no matter what.

Take it back is such a great title. Countless times we hear Jodie think how much she regrets going to the police, how much she would like to take it all back. It also refers to justice and the control over your own life that has been taken away from you that only justice can give back. This is why Zara believes in it, even when her own life seems to be on the verge of spinning out of control.

A powerful story, well-crafted and executed in a masterful way, Take it Back will make you listen, empathise, question, doubt and feel a whole range of emotions. Don’t miss out on this thought-provoking book.

Thank you to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for the review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.


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