Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: April 29th 2014
by Balzer & Bray
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.
During 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 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.
In this powerful debut novel inspired by real-life events, Amanda Maciel weaves a narrative of high school life as complex and heartbreaking as it is familiar: a story of everyday jealousies and resentments, misunderstandings and desires. Tease is a thought-provoking must-read that will haunt readers long after the last page.
-A copy was provided by Balzer + Bray for review-
Tease is a book that is not going to be for everybody. It is chalk full of slut shaming, unlikeable characters and cringe worthy bullying scenarios. As someone who looks for uncomfortable doses of reality in her reading I appreciated all of those things very much. I went into this one expected a gritty tale about bullying and this novel delivered ten-fold.
What is unique about this story is that we are not getting it from the perspective of the person being bullied, we are the bully. We see the story unfold through the eyes of Sarah Wharton. She’s not exactly the Queen Bee at her school but she is best friends with her. Most of the things that Sarah did in this story were incredibly frustrating because it felt like she just did terrible things to fit in with her friend Brielle. She would have these moments, tiny ones, of remorse where she would reflect on what she was about to do to Emma, or things she had said to her but then march right on doing them because “everybody was doing it.” I really can’t say that I liked Sarah at any point of the story but I did appreciate the transformation that she goes through. Some people may not like this part because she doesn’t do the 180 that readers hope for. She gets to a place where she understands her part in Emma’s suicide, but I’m not sure she ever takes on the blame that she should, which I felt was sad but also probably really true to life in most instances. See, the way the bullies look at everything in this story is that they only wanted her to transfer schools, they didn’t want Emma to kill herself, that was never their intent so they don’t understand why charges are being laid against them.
The gravity of the bullying and the carelessness of the bullies really gets to you as you read through Tease. I think that is definitely due to how authentic it feels to stories that you see on the news almost weekly nowadays. There is a line in the author’s note at the end of the book about our teenaged years that I really loved, “it’s the incredibly crucial time when we learn that other people are also hurting, are also victims. We learn that life is complicated, and our version of the story isn’t the only version.” I think this line encompasses the story really well. Because of the perspective that we get the story from we also get to see the inner workings of the popular group, the bullies. There is so much going on amongst them, cheating boyfriends and their dire need to fit in that you get to see that Emma wasn’t the only one dealing with all of the high school politics. Now, don’t get me wrong the stuff Sarah and Brielle were dealing with did not compare in any measure to what they put poor Emma through but it was nice to not have a narrow viewpoint as I read through the novel.
I think this is an important look into the mind of students in high school. The honesty with which the characters are portrayed was so well done and I will definitely be on the lookout for whatever is to come from Amanda Maciel.