I finished reading an advanced reading copy of Tease by Amanda Maciel a few weeks ago, but I didn’t want to review it until I was fully able to express myself. This is a book that needs to sink in; I knew that from the first line on the back cover of the book:
“Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault.”
Tease, Maciel’s first novel, is about the aftermath of high schooler Emma Putnam’s death. A victim of both cyber bullying and real-life pranks and taunting, Emma takes her own life before the start of the novel. What makes Tease so different from other books with similar subject matter is this: the protagonist of the story is Sara, one of the teens accused of pushing Emma to suicide.
In a short Author’s Note at the end of the book, Maciel discusses the real-life inspiration behind Tease: in 2010, a high school girl took her own life after being bullied by six other students. Maciel couldn’t stop thinking about the girls on both side of the case. “And I couldn’t stop thinking,” she says, “that, no matter what the accused bullies had done, surely they couldn’t have intended for anyone to lose her life – surely no one is that vicious.”
According to Bullying Statistics, 1 in 3 young people have experienced threats online. The use of social media in bullying Emma makes the story relevant, and brings a lot of current events to mind. What begins as catty comments on Facebook photos soon turns vicious. Maybe you’ve been a victim of these sorts of comments, or you’ve even made them yourself. As a reader, it was terrifyingly easy to understand the progression from catty to vicious from Sara’s point-of-view. Like Sara, I felt overwhelmed by the change, but caught up in it as well.
Tease is an incredible YA debut, and an interesting take on a coming-of-age tale. As the narrative jumps between the time earlier in the year when Sara and Brielle bullied Emma, and later on when Sara is preparing to go on trial, we get to see two sides of this narrator. Because we see Sara before the tragedy occurs, we as readers get to understand how she falls into bullying. We get to see Sara’s insecurity, and the desire to please her best friend, and the desire to be wanted by her boyfriend. As a teen in high school, Sara’s views are myopic. Her main focus is on herself and her friends, and how everything affects her. I remember having these narrow-minded views in high school; it was very hard to see “the big picture.” It was painful to read about Sara before her trial, to see her confusion, and to witness how her actions affected her family and all the aspects of her life.
I think that Tease is an important read because it not only raises awareness of the bullying issue, but also because it helped me to understand that there are two sides to each story. Oftentimes we follow a story like this on the news and forget about the bully after the trial is off the air (it’s on to the next case, I guess). What we don’t think of is the fact that the bully has to live with what they have done for the rest of their life. I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of Tease. I hope that Maciel’s powerful debut gets the attention it deserves.
Publication Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Received: ARC courtesy of Shelf Awareness