First, thanks to Harper Collins Children’s books for allowing me to read an ARC of this book. As someone who taught middle and high school students for the past 17 years, and who is now a high school librarian, the subject of bullying is one that is always on my mind. As I started reading the book, I knew this was going to be a hard one to read. Because actually, the book is from the point of view of one of the bullies. It is not a true story, but it was inspired by actual events. Where the person bullied killed themselves, and then the students who had been accused of doing the bullying were actually part of a lawsuit.
When I said hard to read, I didn’t mean it wouldn’t be good, just that reading it from the point of view from the main character, Sara., would be difficult. You see she was one of the bullies. But to see it from her viewpoint, you wonder about her bullying, and how much she really did. As we begin, we see what horrible things she and her friends did to this girl Emma. Making a fake Facebook page and writing horrible things on it. Saying things to the girl at school, horrible pranks including making sure to have 100 roses delivered to her on Valentine’s Day at school, with a different guy’s name on each one. But as we read and go step by step through the story, you learn that Sara didn’t come up with most of the ideas, but she went along with them. And her best friend, Brielle, seemed to egg them on, even going out of her way to make sure they continued to harass this girl. Brielle is a mean girl. And she pulls Sara along with her, as she pulls Sara into the world of popularity, and dating a senior boy. Emma is the new girl at the school, the rumors that she had to transfer, and that she sees a therapist. And the fact that she seems to be hitting on other girl’s boyfriends. Even Sara’s boyfriend Dylan. We don’t get a whole lot of Emma’s side, and we definitely don’t get her point of view. But from the things she says and does, you can see why a teen might have felt justified in saying some of the things Sara did. I’m not excusing her in any way, but you can see her point of view, and it sucks to see it from that side.
A really deep, thought-provoking story. I’m not sure if it is good or bad for students to read it, but I can see that it could be a very important way to think about bullying. It could help those that get swept into the bullying by their friends, but don’t feel like what they’re doing is right. Maybe to see what could happen, and then see that it is important to think about what you say and what kind of effects it could have on someone else. To show how easy it is to be anonymous and do these things to people, especially with all the social media these days. Yet another weapon that bullies have found to add to their arsenal.