Reviews of books I've found to be really rather quite spectacular
The summer before senior year, and senior year itself, is supposed to be the best of times. No such luck for Sara Wharton. When her classmate commits suicide, Sara and her friends find themselves facing criminal charges due to their documented, systematic bullying. Over the summer and as she starts school again, Sara works with her lawyer and therapist to contemplate what really happened and work out how big of a role she truly played in her classmate’s death. She must also deal with a fractured family, a non-existent friendship circle torn apart by the tragedy, and a town not willing to let her forget what happened, regardless of the final verdict.
Tease was most definitely a challenging read. Having read The Knife That Killed Me last week, it was quite interesting to read a story from the bully’s perspective. Like actors, I’m sure writers enjoy the challenge of writing ‘the villain’ but in life, there’s often no such thing as a clear cut ‘goodie’ or ‘baddie’. Amanda Maciel does a great job of showing the grey area that colours one of the most important topics concerning young people today.
I found the character of Sara to be complicated. Whilst reading, I often felt like I was fighting with her. I constantly wanted to shake her and say ‘GROW UP!’ but then she would say, or do, something that would make me sympathise with her and remember her age. Despite doing lots of grown up things, Sara was still only on the cusp of adulthood. I liked that Emma, the victim, was not a saint either. Even though Sara is meant to be an unreliable narrator, it was evident that Emma had issues. Emma was similar to one of those reality show characters that hover around a group of friends who clearly – whether rightly or wrongly – want nothing to do with them. You always sit at home and think, why do you care about that group so much you’re willing to put up with their awful, degrading shenanigans? Add members of the opposite sex into the equation and you end up with World War Three.
In terms of plot pace, it took a while to get into Tease and it didn’t end up where I thought it would but that’s not a bad thing at all. The flashbacks worked well for the most part but were occasionally confusing, especially when the end of a flashback contained the same characters as the beginning of the next present day section. I wasn’t 100% sure where the story was set – Nebraska? – but that was good because it added to the universality of the story.
The use of social media as a bullying tool really helped to illuminate the themes of self-obsession, selfishness, and lack of respect. The whole thing started because Sara was only thinking about her world and feared Emma was disrespecting her by encroaching on her ‘turf’ a.k.a her boyfriend. Social media can make its user feel like a star – the star of their very own reality show. It often felt like Sara and Brielle were playing the part of ‘mean girl’ because that is what is expected these days. If someone starts ‘drama’, you flip a table and call them a nasty name in the most public way possible.
Overall, Tease was a difficult pill to swallow, leaving a nasty taste behind. You won’t necessarily like any of the characters but that’s neither here nor there - the issue is far greater. This type of bullying isn’t going to go away anytime soon, so it’s great that this book hammers it home and hopefully it will add to our general awareness of the subject matter.