Author: Amanda Maciel
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 2014
Place on Hold
Synopsis: Sara has been criminally charged with bullying and harassment following the death of Emma Putnam. Everyone believes she’s guilty, but can she and her friends really be blamed for Emma’s suicide ? Sure they were mean to her…but wasn’t everyone ? As Sara and her friends go to trial we find out the truth about what really happened to Emma Putnam and what they had to do with it.
This was a powerful story about bullying and its consequences; one I feel in love with from the first page. It raises questions about what actions and punishments are justified in bullying situations. A lot of people have said they didn’t like the book because it was told from the perspective of “the bully” but I actually felt the opposite.
There was no better way to really dive into the reality of bullying than to tell it from the bully’s perspective. Everyone can rally around a story of a victim, but it takes a special kind of book, and author, to make a reader love a story told by the bully. Amanda Maciel made the right call when she chose to write this book from Sara’s perspective and she did an amazing job. This book wouldn’t have had half the impact if it been told from Emma’s perspective. By the end of the book, I came to love Sara’s character. She may have been viewed as a bully and played a hand in Emma’s death, but underneath it all she was just a high school girl with wants, need, fears/insecurities, and a best friend who lead her down the wrong path. She made bad decisions, but does that make her a horrible person? For me, that was the most profound message of the book; not all bullies are evil. They are simply people who don’t know how to cope and need help just as much as their victims.
I thought that Sara’s denial of responsibility throughout the book perfected the story. I understand that Sara’s attitude may be off-putting to some readers, but it was realistic and accurately portrayed a bullying situation. Sara thought that she hadn’t done anything wrong because Emma “had it coming”; in her mind Emma only got what she deserved for “stealing her boyfriend”. She also used the defense that everyone else was mean to Emma as well and that Emma should have toughened up. While we all recognize that these are not valid excuses for her behavior, it accurately portrays the way many bullies think and act. It’s not usually about terrorizing random people, but about winning a fight or settling a score. It provides a deeper understanding on the bully’s psyche, which is why this book for me is groundbreaking. I feel that more people need to read Tease to understand a different side of bullying. It’s not always about clothes or looks or social status, the problem goes much deeper and we need to approach it with the proper depth it deserves.
I also liked that this book mimicked a real life situation when it raised the question ” how much responsibility do they have in Emma’s death? “. It also questions where freedom of speech stops and harassment begins and what you can legally do about bullying. While what they did was wrong, could they really be held responsible for Emma’s death in terms of murder? My opinion is no, they cannot. Involuntary man slaughter might have been compatible with what they did, but I don’t think it is right for them to be looked at as the people who killed Emma. Yes, they bullied her and that played a big part in her decision to commit suicide, but they didn’t intend to or conspire to kill her. In their minds, they were only “putting her in her place”. Not to mention that they were not the only people to bully or harass Emma on a regular basis. It seems unjust to pick and choose who should be punished.
The charges brought against them were completely valid, but I didn’t agree with the way they were handled. It bothered me that they were only charged after Emma had committed suicide, yet no one tried to hold them accountable for their actions when she was alive. Her death, thanks to the media and the public, turned it into a witch hunt. No longer was it about facts, but about making them pay in the name of justice. The focus moved from holding the teens responsible for their actions to demonizing them and proving how evil they were. The message got completely lost in the firestorm, which is something that happens in reality as well. Tease serves as a great example of how to and how not to handle bullying. It shows that we shouldn’t be charging people after someone’s dead, we should be stopping bullying in its tracks and calling it like it is. If an adult were to constantly verbally abuse another adult that would be harassment, why should it be different between two teenagers? The “they’re just kid ” excuses need to stop. It’s a great fictional example of an all too real problem and demonstrates why it’s important to push for anti bullying laws.
All in all this was an amazing, profound and powerful book that shows the truth about bullying. It is one of my new favorite books and a must read for everyone.