Hard Hitting Nonfiction | Missoula by Jon Krakauer

Friday, February 19, 2021

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer*

Published by Doubleday Books, April 21, 2015

Genre: Investigative Nonfiction

Format: I audiobooked this one via Sora

* explicit

This is another book I picked up because it was available among my school's nonfiction audiobook selections. I noticed Missoula on the title, saw Krakauer was the author, and I was in. I soon realized this was no adventure travel memoir, but I pressed on.

You know those books you don't want to keep reading, but you do -- moving through them nervously because of what might come next? This is the worst kind of suspense because it's real. Krakauer examines the complicated web of "sex without consent" cases as they have happened in one Montana college town. Krakauer begins by noting the discrepancy between the number of reported cases of rape versus the actual number of rapes. From trial transcripts to articles in the local and college newspapers, Krakauer reviews a few specific rape cases from Missoula. 

Critics of the work notice that Krakauer doesn't interview any of the accused or the victims he profiles, though he writes that he tried. Published about a year after Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast, the book has a similar feel. Krakauer combs through the sometimes graphic evidence, though Koenig spent a large bit of Serial's time airing conversations she'd had with Adnan Syed, giving characterization to her examination while Krakauer focuses more on the documents.


This was difficult to read. I grabbed this from our school's high school nonfiction collection, and my mind is divided when I think about high school kids reading this. On one side, it's an important caution about their jumping into the party culture in some college towns. On the other side, it's explicit and terrifying. Does Krakauer fairly represent the complexities of investigating crimes like this? I'm not sure. Still, I think it's worth considering how much cultural norms and mores of various groups collide in a thorny way. Fredrik Backman's fictional Beartown explores similar questions and might make a good literature circle choice for mature high school students.

No comments

Post a Comment

Copyright © Betwain. Blog Design by