Tease by Amanda Maciel
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.
Publishes in US: April 29th 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA contemp
Source: Harper Teen via Edelweiss
Buy it: Amazon Barnes & Noble IndieBound Book Depository
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I wanted to read this one because the subject of bullying always catches my attention, especially since this is from the perspective of the one that the media and maybe even the law is implicating is responsible. I wanted to see inside the head of someone who helped bully someone, their reasoning and was hoping to see a lot of growth in the main character.
Warning-- this is a gritty story. It is hard to read but worth it. It has some pretty intense name calling, some physical but mostly emotional and verbal. Slut shaming is involved, suicide is involved although we don't see that through the victim's eyes.
Being inside Sara's head, I wanted to dislike her going in. She obviously was involved with Emma's pain from being made fun of, called names, and wondering what else went into Emma's thoughts. Was it family? Was she depressed? Did the bullying push her over the edge? We see through Sara's eyes that Emma came into the school and was buddy buddy with the guys, and getting in between guys and girls already in a relationship. It is the question of--how much was tainted by Sara's point of view? Did Emma just need to be talked gently to and tell her that she was hurting people? And then we see the friendship between Sara and Brielle. Sara will do almost anything to be in good graces with Brielle, and it is not a healthy relationship at all. Sara does and says what Brielle says and doesn't let her conscious have a voice. Anytime she has an inkling of doubt of what she is doing and saying she shoved it down and tries again to please Brielle. She is shocked when she hears what others think of Brielle-- a bitch, not nice. She can't reconcile that in her head because she just sees her as a best friend, as looking out for her because Emma is talking to Sara's boyfriend. Who Sara went ahead and had sex with because Brielle encouraged it.
It was hard to be inside Sara's head for most of the book because she didn't think that any of it was her fault. That they didn't cross a line. That it was her life that is shattered because she isn't supposed to talk to her best friend anymore, and that people view her differently. She doesn't even like to go out in public anymore because she feels in the negative spotlight.
The book is told in alternating time periods, the aftermath after Emma's suicide, and then the before, the escalation of the teasing and Sara and Brielle's mission to "teach Emma a lesson." It was a little confusing at times, but it really set up the book so that I could see the miniscule changes in Sara, what led her to do it, and the tiny things that make me relate to her, like her nurturing nature with her brothers. I know that she has love, compassion and empathy in her because she lets it all pour out into her two brothers. Her dad is in Chicago and her mom has to work a lot, so Sara steps up in helping take care of the house and keep an eye on the boys. But I see the changing in her perspective little by little until the explosion of change at the end.
And the thing is that makes me feel the worst, I can see why they didn't like Emma. She has that easier relationship with boys, and they like her. She doesn't seem to have many girlfriends so anything she does seems like flirting or moving in on a relationship. But we don't get her perspective, we just see the result of her pain. If she had a malicious intent, we don't know.
This book really pushed me to think. Have my words hurt anyone? Have I ever taken it too far? Can I help someone by being kind? Do I pity the bullies, because what hurts have they felt in order to hurt someone else that way. My struggles with Sara in this one--how responsible is she? If her parents were around more, feeding more into her life, could she have resisted the negative and toxic relationship with Brielle? Could she have stood up for herself easier? We don't know that either. We just know that she followed Brielle down a hard road and that she hurt others. What is hard too is that Tease doesn't take sides, we don't know everything... Did Emma really do the things that Sara thought she did. We see Sara's excuses for her behavior but it shows her denial and her forging ahead to keep doing things.
This book is so realistic, and Sara has a true teen voice. Honestly her saying "like" all of the time annoyed me. But it made her even more real. A person with a story to tell.
The ending wrapped it up pretty well and showed that there are no winners in a situation like this. In the extreme cases everyone's lives are radically changed. But I do appreciate the changes that Sara went through from total denial to her involvement to realizing that she made it worse for a girl who was already hurting and began to understand what her part was.
My question to you, my lovely readers:
Where do you think the line is between confrontation and stating the truth and crosses into bullying? What if you thought someone was moving in on your significant other? What is okay to say and what's not?