Published by Balzer + Bray on April 29th, 2014
Genres: contemporary, young adult
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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.
How am I ever supposed to review this book articulately and explain what it means to me, how it affected me, how IMPORTANT I think it is. It’s just impossible to put into words in the English language. Maybe there is a Japanese character for this feeling (yet another reason I should try to learn Japanese someday).
I do understand why this book didn’t work for everyone but at the same time, I vehemently do NOT agree. It’s loaded with slut-shaming, which I normally rant about for hours, but here it serves a purpose and I don’t feel it is ever glossed over or seen as okay. I believe the author concentrated on making this book as realistic as possible concerning the topic and tone of the novel, and as much as it sucks, slut-shaming is a huge part of being a teenage girl. It’s common, it’s a part of bullying, and I want my books to be as realistic as possible. Slut-shaming has no place in a high fantasy novel (unless it is part of the world-building), for example, but here it adds to the realism and ugly tone of the novel. Teenage girls can be cruel to each other and often are.
I was actually shocked at how this book portrayed the protagonist. A bully doesn’t change their stripes, right? How can you possibly humanize a character like that? Well, this author accomplished that brilliantly. She manages to do that without ever condoning the bullying or ugly behavior of the teens being showcased. That said, I love all the ways this book made me thing and how it wasn’t always a black or white issue.
Let me let you in on a secret. I was bullied in middle school and high school pretty badly at times. I dreaded going to school. I was terrified to go to the bus stop every single day. The one person behind most of my bullying was a girl who shares the same name with the protagonist of Tease. I’m over it now, but it will always be with me because it shaped who I am today. So it was VERY difficult for me to read about the life Sara had outside of the torment she was causing Emma. And the thing I think a lot of people forget when it comes to kids bullying kids, is that they are still KIDS. Sara is a child too. Yes, Emma is the victim here, but Sara has a family that loves her, little brothers that care about her, and parents that hold themselves accountable for what she did.
And then there is the matter of the lawsuit itself. Emma committed suicide and it is awful, but in this groundbreaking court case, is it really murder if someone takes their own life because of the things Sara and her friends did? There are no easy answers here, and I still don’t know how to answer that question.
Peer pressure can be an ugly thing. Reading this book, it was easy for me to see how a good, dedicated student could turn into a bully. It’s so wrong for kids to do this to each other, but man, peer pressure can be a killer. Even if I think back to when I was in high school, I can only hope that my self esteem would have been enough to keep me from turning into the person that Sara became. Sara had low self esteem, and without Brielle influencing her, I don’t think she knew who she was. Brielle was the ring leader, but Sara followed in her footsteps and never stopped Brielle from saying awful things to Emma. Especially towards the end. It was just so difficult for me to read, and I kept hoping she would realize the error of her ways. And it’s so hard for me to think back to when I was in high school and then try to humanize my bully and think about their reasons for doing what they did. Was it peer pressure? Trouble at home? What?
At any rate, this book made me think a lot of things and I couldn’t possibly put down on paper all the ways it made me feel and situations it made me contemplate. It’s not an easy read and it’s definitely not a fun read, but I think it is an important one and I had a tough time quitting it at the end of the night. I am definitely going to remember it for a LONG time.