Tease by Amanda Maciel
Published May 1, 2014 by Hachette
Source: the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault.I’m going to start by saying that Tease by Amanda Maciel neither condones nor encourages slut-shaming or bullying. I know these two elements have made readers quit this book after only a few pages or decide not to read it at all.
At least, that's what everyone seems to think when 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. But Sara is sure she hasn't done anything wrong, because Emma brought it on herself. Sara is adamant that she was the victim - not Emma.
So, it might surprise some readers when I say that I found this story completely captivating. Every time I had to put my tablet down, I would be itching to pick it up again. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. When I finished it I kept going to pick it up my tablet only to remind myself that it was over. And now I’ve spent a few days thinking about it, I can’t get the characters or the events out of my head.
I can understand why a lot of readers have chosen not to read this, but at the same time it’s totally worth sticking this book out to the end. Yes, this is a horrible subject. Yes, the girls use nasty language, but there is a lot more to Sara’s story and it’s one I think all teens need to read.
Seventeen year old Sara Wharton is facing charges due to the bullying that lead to sixteen year old Emma Putnam committing suicide. Also facing charges are her best friend, Brielle Griggs, her ex-boyfriend, Dylan Howe, and his friends Tyler and Jacob. The story is split between the present (July) and the events leading to Emma’s death (January – March). Despite knowing what was going to happen, the story was still utterly compelling and horrifying at the same time.
When we first meet Sara she is at yet another meeting with her lawyers and is going over the charges laid against her. Sara doesn’t feel at all sorry or responsible, she stands by the fact that none of them physically killed Emma and that Emma chose to do what she did. Despite this callous attitude, Sara is not as heartless as she seems, and more of her true character is revealed as she tells her story.
Told via first person we get a realistic look at what it can be like for a teenage girl at school – obviously not all girls will have the same experience, but Sara’s story felt true nonetheless. Brielle is the more dominant one in their friendship; Sara has quite low self-esteem and only feels like she’s someone when she’s with Brielle. Their dynamic was so complex, it was easy to see how Sara got caught up in Brielle’s need to bring down Emma. It definitely wasn't all Brielle’s fault, Sara played a big part, but I did like seeing the moments where Sara wanted to stop, when she got scared or felt guilty. I can understand why Sara would put up a wall and deny any wrong doing, sometimes it’s easier to keep going, even when you wish you could stop and face the truth, especially when what you've caused is so horrible.
The reason I think this story is worth reading is due to the character growth, Sara has a completely different mindset by the time the end of the year rolls around, and no, this doesn't make what she did ok, but I was happy to see her learn from her actions rather than continue to be a bully. Also, it’s based on a true story, and I have no doubt that there are plenty of teens that half-heartedly participate in bullying, or allow bullying to happen and do nothing. This could be an enlightening read for them, highlighting the potential consequences of their actions.
Tease is a sad yet captivating story, so relevant to today when bullying in schools only seems to be on the increase, and when the outcome often involves injury or death. Amanda Maciel took a risk telling this story from the bully’s perspective, and it absolutely paid off, it’s a thought-provoking young adult novel.
Thank you to Hachette for my review copy via Netgalley.