Author: Amanda Maciel
Series: None; Standalone
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 29, 2014
I had so many thoughts about this book that I’m surprised Goodreads didn’t block me from posting updates (is that even a thing?). I feel like this book is so important, especially now. You’ll see why. So, in advance, this is going to be a really long review. Here’s your synopsis from Amazon:
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.
1. I’m going to warn you right now, this book is extremely hard to read.
I’m not saying this as a bad thing, oh no. The only reason this is hard to read is because of the narrator, Sara. She is the absolute WORST and that’s putting it nicely. The book opens with Sara and her friends being on trial for the death of their classmate, Emma. Her charges include stalking, bullying, and assault. This is a different way to tell this story, because we hear it all from the point of view of the bully. Sara maintains she did nothing wrong. She never sees that what she did affected Emma so badly, that she felt she had to take her own life. Sara does it all: cyberbullying, starting rumors, posting things in Emma’s yard, you name it. She’s a horrible person, and the more you read, the more you hate her.
2. I never felt bad for Sara. She has no remorse. However, there is someone WORSE than her…
And that person is Brielle. She is the person who starts this whole chain of events. Brielle is rich and she probably doesn’t have a soul. From the day Emma shows up at their school, she is the reason the girls pounce on her. Their excuses for bullying her so harshly are that Emma has a lot of “hook ups” which may or may not be true. The girls seem to think she hooks up with all of these dudes, and we never find out if it’s true or not, because the bullies believe it is all true. Then, Emma starts hanging out with Sara’s boyfriend and then life just gets horrible for Emma. They dig up dirt on her (“dirt” meaning that they find out she transferred schools a lot) and use it to their advantage. It’s sickening how far these girls go. They make a horrible Facebook page specifically for bringing other kids in on bullying her. They post disgusting things on the page and their classmates just join in. Sara’s boyfriend seems to be the only voice of reason, telling the girls they’re going too far. Of course, Sara gets mad when he brings it up, because she’s the worst person on the planet. Ever.
3. Sara has to go to summer school since she misses for her CRIMINAL TRIAL.
Sara complains about summer school so much. As if I didn’t want to punch her enough already, her complaints drive me NUTS. In summer school, she befriends a boy named Carmichael. She judges him harshly, and she’s probably bullied him at some point in their school career because he’s different. Carmichael is entirely too nice to Sara. She deserves nothing nice and I really wanted Carmichael to hurt her. Not physically, of course, but I wanted him to show her how it feels to be sad, lonely, and an outcast. She deserves absolutely nothing good and I hated that he showed her any kindness whatsoever.
4. Sara is awful, as previously stated, but there was one thing she said that REALLY irked me.
At one point, Sara says that Emma made her a mean girl. She said the girl who committed suicide BECAUSE. OF. HER. made her a mean girl. This absolutely threw me for a loop. I had to read it a few times to see if I got that right. Is this really how bullies feel once the product of their bullying is suicide? I was so disgusted and physically sick.
5. This book is so extremely important, I want every teenager to read this immediately.
I am a middle school teacher. I got all of my training in high schools, and I have seen my fair share of bullying. Middle school is actually worse than high school because they’re going through this phase where they have to prove themselves. Usually, that means that they’re following what everyone else says and being completely horrible to other kids. The number one rule I have in my classroom is: be kind. My kids have gotten many lectures about how they need to be kind to one another, because I hear bullying all the time. It’s sickening what these kids say to each other. With that said, I think this book is important because it shows kids what they say can have permanent affects on people. This is a realistic and jarring look at modern day bullies and all of the damage they cause. It’s abhorrent to read this and think that kids actually plan ways to make someone else’s life a living hell. Why? To look cool? Revenge? I wish kids could see beyond where they are right now: their age, school, whatever and see that they have an affect on the world. It’s up to them what kind of memories they leave and what kind of person they want to become. I hate mean people. And that’s really all bullies are. I never really got bullied because I was always raised to be unapologetically, unabashedly myself. I was raised to be strong, and I still carry that with me. Some people aren’t so lucky. Emma is not that lucky.
6. Amanda Maciel is one of the sweetest people I have ever come into contact with and I have NO idea how she wrote such a mean, horrible girl!
This is a huge testament to Maciel’s writing abilities. This novel is her debut, and I was engrossed the whole way through. I finished this book in a day. I ordered this book used on Amazon. While the company told me I was receiving a hardcover, they sent me an ARC. I was SO MAD because, if you’ve never seen an ARC, there is a stamp right on the front that says NOT FOR SALE. So, I tweeted Maciel, telling her how mad I was that this company was selling her ARCs. She apologized to me! It was so nice of her to do so, but I just wanted her to know this company was breaking the law. I ended up getting my money back, keeping the book, and writing a really well worded email telling them how illegal that business practice is. Maciel, being the sweet angel she is, sent me an autographed hardcover for free, since I told her I wanted to put this in my classroom. WHAT A SWEETHEART!!! I asked her how she can be so wonderful, yet write someone so terrible, and she said everyone has their alter egos. (I don’t believe Sara exists inside her for a second)! Anyway, I will forever be a fan. This book was amazing.
OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I loved this so, so much. Even though I was mad the whole time I was reading – because Sara is just the WORST – I had to sit back and think how incredible a writer she has to be in order to make me feel so upset. This book is poignant and real and incredibly important, so click the link below to order!