Author: Amanda Maciel
Rating: ★★★★ (4/5 Stars)
Hardcover, 328 Pages
Published April 2014
Summary: 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. In 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 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. With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.
When I read the blurb for this book, I thought it was going to be about some snobby, stuck up girl who truly believed she had nothing to do with Emma's suicide and would just be a total drama queen about it. Wow, was I wrong. Maciel managed to create a character that in the beginning may not have realized that she did any wrong, but managed to see the error of her ways and actually feel remorse as the book went on.
Now, what exactly do I have to say about Emma Putnam? I don't get that girl. Maciel managed to write the entire book without truly suggesting what side she was on throughout the whole thing--and in the end, I doubt that the main character, Sara, even knows what side she's on herself. The things that Emma did weren't right, that's for sure. She hooked up with countless guys. She stole Sara's boyfriend and then proceeded to cheat on Sara's boyfriend after she stole him for herself. She's definitely a promiscuous character, am I right?
Wrong. Because as you read the book, you will notice that nothing Emma did was ever truly confirmed by anyone, other than Sara actually witnessing Emma making out with her boyfriend at a party.If you take the time to think about it, 99.9% of every "slutty" thing Emma done was all hearsay, wasn't it? I don't know if this was Maciel's intention or not, but she created a story that reminds me just a tiny bit of The Truth About Alice--all of this "slut shaming" was going on, but was it really? It was all hearsay.
*Slut shaming: Used to describe the act of making a person, especially a woman, feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered to be contrary to natural or religious law.In this case, if Emma really was hooking up with all of those guys, it was not right. But Sara and her partner-in-crime Brielle didn't do anything to make matters any worse.
This book made me feel so many things--infuriated at Emma, infuriated at Sara and Brielle, sad for Emma, frustrated for Sara, annoyed with Brielle. The fact that stuff like this happens every day is depressing and disgusting and just shouldn't be a fact at all. This book really opened my eyes to bullying, much better than any of those five thousand school assemblies ever did. I feel like it has to do with the fact that Sara really didn't feel like she did anything wrong, at least at first. Throughout the book, I got to watch Sara's feelings changed as her eyes opened to all of the terrible things that she really had done without any intention of Emma killing herself.
This was an awesome, heartbreaking, powerful novel that I really did enjoy. It opened my eyes further to the cruelty of teenage girls and the type of bullying that truly needs to be halted (with the help of school administration, which this book did capture the reality of--how they tend to do very little) so that suicide as the cause of bullying can finally, finally cease.