School can be a frightening place as students of any age try to fit in with an ever changing norm. Amanda Maciel does an amazing job of making this high school story very real. I don't teach in a high school and my hope is that it isn't this bad but I have a feeling I could be wrong...
Emma Putnam, a new student, who somehow gets on the wrong side of Brielle and subsequently her followers, Sara, Noelle and a few male characters. Emma is pegged as a slut as she tries to make her way through every day with mean people surrounding her.
They push her around physically and emotionally using FB and Twitter. They taunt her every single time they see her. They put fake Valentine's Day cutouts on her lawn. They create a vicious FB page for her. And while Emma feels like she has a few friends they often turn on her if Brielle is near. Noone wants to go against Brielle. The line is so thin...it's much easier to be a bystander or even worse join right in so Brielle might like you more. Why do girls allow a mean queen bee take control like this?
I would love to see this book told again through Emma's side. She's human and makes a few mistakes along the way which is just what gives Sara justification to keep taunting her. It is Sara that we follow through alternating monthly chapters of before and after Emma's suicide. Eventaully she understands how her (and Brielle's) behavior adversely effected Emma; enough for Emma to lose any hope.
This was hard to read, it hurt my heart, and I so wanted to step in and alternately "shake" each character. Words are what hurt and until we really help kids get this bullying will remain an issue.
How can we teach children at the elementary level to respect each other and spread peace and joy instead of nasty barbs.
I try to look away, but it's like my head is stuck. She and Beth are talking in low voices, and Emma looks like she's been crying or something. She always looks that way-when she's not flirting with some guy or whatever. Or even when she is, sometimes. She's this permanent bruise, always getting her feelings hurt, always injured. Everyone at school knows she sees a therapist, and I wonder why they haven't just put her on antidepressants already. Or ones that actually work. (113)
That's just how Brielle was. That's what no one gets, I think-she would tease you even if she did like you. Especially if she liked you. And then if someone was mean to her, or to one of her friends, she'd turn that teasing on to them. It would be a lot less nice, of course. It was pretty tough sometimes. But-and suddenly I know this, standing here with Carmichael, in the middle of passing period, in the middle of nowhere-that's her survival instinct. That's just how she deals. (237)
Excellent, well-crafted characters mixed with a very current and real crisis made for a strong story and from a debut author! I'm interested in whatever she writes next. While we are waiting this interview with Amanda is worth it!