Published on: April 29th 2014
Published by: Balzer and Bray
Genre: YA Contemporary
Buy UK . Buy US. Goodreads
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.
I got this book out my my library a looooooooooooong time ago, and I have paid so many fines on it that it would have probably been cheaper to just buy the book! But I was determined to read it, and after a failed first attempt I started 2015 ready to give it another chance. 2 days later I had finished it and can’t believe it took me so long to read!
This book is unique in the way that it is written from the point of the view of the “bully”, Sara, so we really do get the full story and we get to make up our own decision about Sara. Amanda Maciel is clever in the way that she doesn’t try and sway our opinions of her in any way. We get the moments when we absolutely hate her and think she is cruel and then we get the moments when we actually maybe like her and feel a bit sorry for her. No two people are going to finish this story feeling the same way, and that’s what makes it special!
“You’re weird,’ he says.
Despite everythin, I smile. ‘You’re always saying that, but in fact, you’re weird,’ I say.
‘Yeah, I know. Remember? That’s how I can tell you’re weird, too.”
In all honesty I didn’t like Sara at the beginning of this book. She was very ‘high school’ about the whole thing. One of her peers had just committed suicide and the only thing Sara thought about was how it had made a mess of her life and her summer, she came across as cruel and in my mind guilty. But then through the flashbacks, seeing exactly what happened actually made me relate to Sara. We have all been in high school and so at some point we have all called someone a name or teased someone, although not to the extent that she did in this book, but still, there is something relatable about Sara as I imagined myself as a 16 year old girl in her position and could imagine myself feeling some of the same feelings that she did about Emma.
“The thing about having one really good friend, one person you talk to all the time about everything, is that you stop really talking to anyone else. You sort of talk to other people, but mostly you have your one person and that’s enough. And then one day, maybe for a good reason or maybe out of nowhere, you can’t talk to that friend anymore, and you suddenly realize you can’t talk to anyone else. Like, it’s physically impossible. No one understands you except that person. it’s like you speak another language, and the other person who also speaks it is gone.”
I found Carmichael a great addition to this story. In Sara’s mind he has always been the school outsider, but now that she is an outsider too he is the only person who will actually talk to her and she comes to rely on him a lot more then I think she realises. Their friendship is very cleverly written and teaches Sara a lot throughout the book, showing her that maybe not being ‘top of the high school hierarchy’ is the most important thing in the world as well as her learning the right way to treat people. Sara’s relationship with Carmichael also helps to make her a much more likeable character, as you start to route for them. He may be a supporting character in this book, but I see his role as one of the most important.
“I look down and see my hands uncapping the pen, turning the notepad right-side up on my knees. My mouth is dry, my stomach is in knots, my life is over, my heart is broken. I start to write.”
It may sound strange but I actually really liked reading this book because it reminded me a lot of my own high school days. Thankfully, nothing as serious as this ever happened at my school, but I recognised a lot of the things that make this story what it is as things that happened to me too. The totally toxic relationship with someone, who you thought was the most important friend and your BFF, but looking back now you realise how horrible they actually were and you haven’t actually spoke to them in over a year! The first love who you are going to be in love with forever is actually just the horny teenage boy who is no longer as good looking as you imagine and you have had kisses TONS better since him! Even though it features very serious topics, it was enjoyable because I could see me high school friends in every single one of these characters which made me smile as I reminisced.
“Don’t add silence to your list of regrets.”
I’m so glad I finally got round to reading this book (and not just because I can now return it to the library and stop having to pay fines!
Re-Readability: Yes, just not right away.
I would recommend this book to fans of: books set in high school, books based on bullying, books from the “bad guys/girls” point of view, books where the main characters actually learn something.
Have you read Tease? What did you think?
What was your opinion of Sara by the end of the book?