Book Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Posted April 10, 2014 by Kara in book review / 4 Comments

Book Review: Tease by Amanda MacielTease by Amanda Maciel
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 29th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, young adult
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault. At least, that's what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who's ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she'll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships. Supports the Common Core State Standards.

This is not an easy review to write. I’ve been staring at this screen for like two days now, trying to gather my thoughts about this book.  Tease is told from the bully’s point of view.  Emma Putnam transfers to Elmwood and quickly becomes the target of Sara and Brielle, two popular juniors, all because she is pretty and boys like her.  It’s an ugly story, one that made me very uncomfortable while reading, and the author’s choice to tell it from the bully’s point of view made it all that harder to read.

I guess the hardest part about this novel was humanizing Sara.  She does some really awful fucked up shit to Emma.  While Sarah isn’t the ringleader in all this, and doesn’t start the attacks, she is pretty central to it all and doesn’t ever try to stop her classmates from attacking Emma.  Sara was pretty awful, and I’m not erasing that, but I kind of related to her anyway.  She was in pain throughout the entire book – she takes up a lot of responsibility in helping rear her two younger brothers, her father left her to start a new family, and now her boyfriend is cheating on her.  She is taking all that pain and turning it to anger, and worst of all, turning it onto the wrong party.  But I get it – I get that rage and that anger.  I’ve been through similar things.  But what I don’t get is the way she treated Emma.  I’m not saying they had to be best friends – I mean, Emma DID hook up with Sara’s boyfriend – but Sara went out of her way to systematically destroy Emma’s life and I just don’t understand it.

And Sara isn’t sorry for any of it, at least, not until the last like 30 pages.  Tease is told on two timelines – while the bullying was taking place, and after Emma kills herself, while Sara is meeting with lawyers and starting the new school year.  I expected Sarah to be shitty during the earlier timeline.  But I wasn’t expecting her to be so fucking horrible even after Emma’s death.  She felt no remorse, she honestly believed she didn’t do anything wrong and that Emma brought it all on herself.  It was gross and hard to stomach and I kind of wanted to quit the book early on.  When Sara does finally admit to wrongdoing, it is so sudden and really makes no sense.  I don’t even know why or what happened – just, on one page she was still pissed at Emma and on the next, she was writing an apology.  It did not feel real, it did not feel authentic.  It felt like the author forcing the plot to go the way she wanted, and not like it really came from Sara at all.

However, I did not hate Tease.  I thought it was very beautifully written.  There are many descriptive passages in the book that are truly breathtaking. 

If I was invisible, she was too visible. She was a nuclear explosion, detonating and destroying everything and everyone else in the process.

The writing was evocative and accessible.  The teen’s voices felt real and authentic, not at all like forced teen speak. I also really enjoyed the interactions between Sarah and her brothers, and how Sara’s reactions to her family problems seemed like they could be anyone’s reactions.  

Tease was difficult to read through – a lot of it felt very personal to me, and left me fried and raw after reading.  I think this is an important book, but missed the mark on a few things, especially some kind of understanding and humanizing of Emma.  We are told repeatedly that she is troubled, that she might be on antidepressants and seeing a therapist, but the reality of Emma’s struggle is never conceptualized.  Finally, I wish that Sara’s remorse and apology felt more authentic than it did, instead of forced.  I think this book will hit a lot of people in a positive way, but if you are triggered by bullying, I might stay away.




This review checks off the “A YA Book” square for Bookish Bingo 

4 responses to “Book Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed this book more than I did. I agree, the writing was beautiful and it really was so lovely to read, but the story let it down for me, and Sarah did too. I dnf’ed it after a few days avoiding it, it just wasn’t for me, but it’s definitely unique and different! Great review Bekka!

  2. I’m kind of curious about this because I have heard of stories in the news about people like Sarah. It seems like Sarah is pretty awful, and I don’t like that she apologizes in the end, but I think Tease is a kind of different take on bullying. Although I’ve never been a big fan of bullying books, I’ll try this one.

    Great review!

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  3. I might be the only person on the planet who completely loved this book LOL. I just felt Sara. Even though some of the stuff she was thinking wasn’t nice or right, I got her POV. I thought it was really brave to show the otherside of the story and not just the victim’s POV, which is what we usually see. I can see how some people will have a hard time with some of Sara’s thoughts and actions, but I understood her. Great review. Even though this wasn’t your favorite, I think it’s always a good thing when books get people thinking about a topic like this 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing your review. This does sound like an important book, and I think it is important to humanize everyone, including bullies. But I was sorry to hear that the character growth and humanization of the bullied fell flat.

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