Tease - Book Review
UK Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Emma Puton 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 is ostracised, 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 recommend therapist, Sara is forced to recollect 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…
This is a deeply moving book that I think would get teenagers to really consider the consequences of their actions. Neither black nor white in its telling, the story will take the reader on a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions, a truly eye-opening read!
The story follows Sara, a teenage girl who is facing criminal chargers for being part of group who took it upon themselves to bully classmate, Emma Putnam, who’s troubled life eventually led to Emma committing suicide. Now several months after Emma’s death, Sara is forced to face the consequences of her actions.
Shunned by her schoolmates, penalised by the public and media alike, and divided from her close friends by their lawyers need to place blame, Sara feels isolated from the world she once loved. And she hates Emma Putnam now more than ever! While her therapist and parents hound her to show remorse, Sara struggles to let go of her of her anger. Because her anger will lead her down a dark path and all Sara knows is that, because of Emma, her life will never be the same again…
This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time. While I rarely pick up contemporary YAs, I’m glad I chose to read this one, just for its sheerly unique perspective alone. With the chapters split into two parts of past and present, we see through Sara’s eyes the events leading up to Emma’s death, the scenes in which the bullying took place, and Sara’s reasoning behind it. However the story mainly stems from the present day where we see how Sara and the world are coping several months after Emma’s passing, revealing the drastic changes to Sara’s life.
Normally when I read a book, I generally like the main character straight away. This was not the case with Sara. At first I thought she was a selfish harpy who was truly convinced of her own innocence, yet as the story goes on, you do begin to see her side of things and realise how unfair it is to judge her actions. This is a high school setting after all, and in high school, life is never simple.
While I do not think Sara was blameless, the story shows that Emma was a troubled girl who did little to help herself, proving that there really is more than one side to a story. I would have been really interested to read a little of Emma’s perspective, just to see how she interpreted Sara’s actions and what went on through her mind as the bullying escalated.
What really hit me about this book though was the selfishness of the characters - both Sara and Emma alike. Sara is too small a person to see how comments that mean little to her, can rock the foundations of another persons world. She is actually incapable of telling when the joke has gone to far, especially when words like ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ are thrown so casually around her own social circle, that she is unaware of the impact such words can have on others outside her group.
Emma on the other hand, doesn’t do much to help herself. Occasionally it seems she tries to antagonise Sara (perhaps her way of standing up for herself?) while at others she is meek as a mouse at Sara’s taunting. Emma also never seemed to consider her parents or the friends she leaves behind, seeing only her own pain.
However this book, Tease, also calls to attention the teachers lack of ability to help. For while most schools are big on their anti-bullying policies, their actions can only be effective when they have an actual culprit to blame and often, Sara and her friends got away with things easily. Yet after Emma’s death, when Sara suddenly found herself the centre of ridicule and taunting by her fellow classmates, the school again did little to stop it and so the cycle continued.
Another question raised is, are Sara’s classmates, those who stood by and only watched Emma’s torment - are they also to blame? Arguably standing by and doing nothing can be considered the same level of cruelty as those who actually do the bullying. However I thought it was interesting that after all was said and done, Sara was the only one who seemed to consider this.
Overall, Tease is an incredibly written book that will open the eyes of many to the world around them. It’s a story that show’s people should be given second chances, that mistakes can be made - and while they will always have to be lived with - those mistakes should not define you as a person.
A story that will stay with you long after the last page is turned. 5 stars!