Author: Andrew Hutchinson
Genre: Australian fiction
Favourite part: The narrator’s revelation in the finale.
Favourite quote: ‘The New Punk is not about moving towards your future. It is about your life right now, impatiently standing still.’
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Sexual Predators, Rape, Sexual Assault
Rohypnol by Andrew Hutchinson is the story of a group of disillusioned male youths and how they fall rapidly into the world of sex crime. Told through the perspective of one of these young men, Hutchinson describes how the boys come to meet and begin their practice of roaming Melbourne nightclubs in search of female victims. The title of the book, Rohypnol, refers to the date rape drug which the boys use to spike the drinks of their victims, which then leave them defenceless and easy prey for the gang to later rape. There are of course consequences for these events, which the novel ultimately builds up to, but is there any remorse or redemption for this gang of despicable young men?
Unlike many other stories with a similar premise, this is in no way a story of forgiveness or redemption; this is the story of bad people doing bad things and not caring about the consequences. The characters are deliberately unlikeable, and the reader is left with no obvious explanation as to why these boys decide to do what they do. The boys are all privileged, white, spoilt, middle-class, and private-school educated, and there are no obvious reasons presented to suggest that they would think this behaviour is normal. This makes it almost impossible to feel any sympathy or pity for the characters, which makes the novel all the more compelling. However, the subject matter of the novel may indeed put off many potential readers. At times the book is horrific, violent and sickening, with some scenes containing graphic sexual violence. Some may even feel that the content exists for shock value. Why would anyone want to read this? Well, in spite of it all, this book is skilful, enlightening and entirely fresh. With little information provided on the main character’s back stories, the reader is forced to fill in the gaps which is both challenging and stimulating.
Throughout the novel the reader is brought in and out of the narrator’s therapy sessions, which take place following the events of the main story. As well as breaking up the main narrative, these sessions serve as a chance for the character to shed further light on the events that occurred occurring events and to question the morals of all involved. His name is never revealed, further distancing the reader and reinforcing the idea that these criminals walk among us, entirely anonymous.
Ultimately Rohypnol is an investigation of disillusioned youths in modern day society and how wealth enables and protects them. Hutchinson also shines a light on the thin line between innocent bystander, accessory, and instigator of crime, asking at which point a person becomes responsible.
As fantastical as it seems at times, the most terrifying aspect of this story is that events like these are very much a reality. Sexual predators such as the ones introduced in this novel operate and blend-in seamlessly into everyday society. This fact makes the story even more chilling. Unless it isn’t already clear enough, this novel is not for the faint-hearted and is not for everyone. However, if you enjoy dark, gritty stories which both challenge and stimulate then you are in for a treat.