Wild Things x OnlinesOnline: DANGEROUS PLAY by Emma Kress ’20

*Originally featured at OnlinesOnline: HERE.

Content warning: Sexual assault and rape

Click to buy or visit your local indie bookstore with a mask!

Emma Kress‘ debut follows Zoe and her team of field hockey (fockey) players as they play to win against rape culture in their community.

“We hold more power than anyone told us we could” (155).

Emma Kress: This line survived many revisions and remains one of my favorite lines in the book. Much of Dangerous Play is about girls figuring out how to claim their power, especially given the pervasive reality of rape culture. Many of the choices I made centered this idea of girls flexing their muscles with regard to both holding power and pushing against societal expectations. This is why I chose field hockey for Zoe’s sport; there’s something about holding that stick as a teen girl that makes you feel powerful in a way that society doesn’t often let you feel off the field. It’s why I intentionally gave space on the page for the girls to be physical powerhouses, to be fiercely athletic, to be their own action heroes—which are all characteristics we’re used to seeing assigned to boys and men in books and film, but rarely to girls and women. It’s why I wanted to fully explore the wide range of emotions that survivors feel after an assault—even and especially rage. 

OnLines: This novel was so much fun for my feminist heart! This line is in reference to a game, where our fockey team is ripping it up (is it obvious how non-sporty I am?). This line foreshadows what the team will become, on and off the field, and it is SUCH AN ANTHEM!

I’ll also take this opportunity to talk about how much the fockey games added to this. Sports novels come built-in with a rising arc and a climax, as the team tries to make it to whatever final there is for their sport. Each game has a (usually/mostly) clear win or lose and a next step. In this novel, Kress uses the games for pacing, but she also uses them as a metaphor for the social battle the girls are fighting (as well as the battle at home Zoe thinks she’s fighting). The games become a massively perfect metaphor for the girls’ progression through the rape culture surrounding them. And when the metaphor becomes literal at the end, it is wonderfully powerful. 

“Just a Girl” – No Doubt

Emma Kress: Stefani expertly captures the frustration and impossibility of being a girl in this world when the rules and expectations are so rigid and archaic. I love the way she makes it specific to her own experience but also keeps returning to the chorus of “I’m just a girl in the world,” which of course highlights that this is every girl’s experience. So much of what I was trying to do with Dangerous Play wasn’t about capturing a single survivor’s experience, but capturing what happens to girls when we raise them in rape culture. What happens to girls when they push against the boxes society has built for them?

OnLines: I’m a ’90s kid, so this was the song I heard while reading this, particularly these lines describing our culture:

“The moment that I step outside

So many reasons for me to run and hide

I can’t do the little things I hold so dear

‘Cause it’s all those little things that I fear”

[Spotify link]

Click HERE for the full post, including thoughts on DANGEROUS PLAY’s first and (spoiler!) last lines.

DANGEROUS PLAY by Emma Kress is published by Roaring Brook Press, August 3, 2021.