on 28 April 2014
When I first started reading this, I already had some assumptions of how I was going to feel towards the main character Sara and I already hated her for driving a girl, Emma to suicide. But Tease tells Sara's side of the story; the story that no one else is listening to because they have already made up their minds about her as a girl is dead so Sara's completely in the wrong, isn't she?
I thought the premise for this novel was really good and was extremely thought provoking. Sadly Tease is based on the true event of six teenagers in America being charged as the result of another student's suicide, but Amanda has given the accused's side of the story from main character Sara.
Sara really doesn't believe that she did anything wrong. In Sara's eyes, Emma stole her boyfriend so she is in the wrong, and she can't understand why no one apart from her understands this. As the narrative flits back and forth between the events leading up to Emma's suicide and the aftermath, we really get to know Sara's character and her friends in detail.
I actually started to see Sara's point of view and I didn't want her to end up in prison because I started to see the good in her. Although, I hasten to add that she was not the innocent party that she kept thinking she was as she had made a girl feel so bad about herself that she drove her to suicide. A lot of the time I hated Sara and hated that she felt so desperate to fit in with her BFF Brielle, that she would do practically anything, especially when it concerned being mean to Emma as that was when Brielle showed the most interest in Emma. She needed a wake up call and act on her own instincts that what she was doing to Emma was wrong. I know she was hurt by her boyfriend going off with Emma, but why couldn't she that it was her boyfriend that was in the wrong, not Emma.
Amanda's narrative was incredibly powerful and she really gets across teenage school life and dialogue really well. Even though this was hard to read at times, I had to keep picking it up. We already know what happened but I wanted to know what led up to this tragedy and what would happen to Sara.
I think the message that the author is trying to get across in this is that as we all know, school is a tough place to grow up. We are trying to fit in and it's a time when we make mistakes and there's no one to guide you through it. I was bullied at school and I still have bad dreams about it sometimes, but I wasn't completely innocent either. I said and did some hurtful things that I massively regret when I was 16. Bullies are horrible, of course they are, otherwise they wouldn't be bullies, but maybe they are trying to reach out too? We just can't see it because of all the hate they project. This is why Tease is so great as it really gets you thinking about both sides of the story.
When so many YA novels are froth and fluff (as enjoyable as that is), it's good to see something that is far more hard-hitting and serious without ever becoming preachy.
Sara and her best friend are the cool girls in school and so when Emma arrives they find it amusing to dislike her. But boyfriend trouble, jealousy and sex widen the gap between the girls till dislike turns to hate, and teasing turns to toxic bullying - with a shocking conclusion.
Maciel has made a sound decision in keeping Sara likeable so that the issue of bullying becomes an insidious one that any of us could be guilty of. Focusing the enmity of the girls on jealousy over Dylan also works well since our sympathy and understanding are generally with Sara making us complicit in the tragedy of the book.
This could have been patronising but to Maciel's credit it's not: an excellent, chilling and hard-hitting read with some important things to say.
(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
on 26 January 2016
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!
on 20 June 2014
The title of the book needs to be interpreted in two ways: “Tease” is someone who teases guys and makes them sexually frustrated (hopefully fall in love with them if you’re a teen) and “Tease” stands for the act of the light bullying or harassing of someone.
The second definition of tease is what Sara Wharton thinks she is doing. She’s teasing the school’s tease Emma Putnam. Sara and Brielle, bff's and queen B of the school, hate Emma for stealing Sara’s boyfriend, and just generally because she is so pretty.
However, teasing is an understatement for the way the girls treat Emma - they are violent and mean and Emma commits suicide. Her parents blame the girls and their friends and sue all of them for the death of Emma.
This is the point where the book starts; Sara explains what happened and how totally unfair it is. Throughout the book, all the details of the bullying (because it’s definitely not teasing) and the details of the court case are revealed in an interesting plot order that jumps from present to past.
The major story elements in the book are based on true events, which makes this book a difficult read. It’s shocking that these events can happen in real life and you’ll ask yourself “but how??” at the end of the book.
Because that’s the strength of this book - it’s not overly moralistic or preachy in its message. It shows the dangers of bullying, but it also tries to show the causes of bullying. I feel like there are not enough books like that on the market and I hope this is the first of many.
Sara is insecure and just lost. She doesn’t know who she is or who she wants to be, so she just clings to people she thinks are perfect. This includes Brielle, who is the meanest teenager I ever read about, and her boyfriend who doesn’t really care about her too much. He proves this when he makes out with Emma at the Valentine Dance after-party.
Let the slutshaming begin.
I knew teenagers were cruel and mean and “oh god, don’t you dare be prettier than them or to be sexually confident”. But the intense slutshaming Sara puts Emma through makes it very hard to like her as a narrator. She starts off likeable enough, but as more details of the bullying are revealed, I started distancing from her. Especially since there is no real point in the story where I felt that Sara was actually truly sorry for what she did. I feel like there could be a sequel and Sara would slutshame the next girl who takes her boyfriend.
This makes it difficult to stay invested in the book, because you just want to punch Sara in the face for being so naive and dumb, but it also makes the book very realistic. Not everyone in life has a big changing moment - definitely not within a few days/ months/ years, like most novels portray. Some people just don’t get certain things and never will, no matter what happens. Sara is one of them, no matter how hard we root for her to change.
The author says she wanted to show the story from several angles; not just the one of the victim that the media always shows. Unfortunately, due to Sara’s immature behaviour, there is really no sympathy for her. I felt bad for her family, who had to suffer immensely due to the big court case. I felt bad for Emma and her family, and even for Sara’s boyfriend, who seemed to have actually really liked Emma (even though he does make some very questionably decision, none of them are illegal).
However, the topic is important enough that this book should be read by teenagers and older readers - we can all lose the plot, we can all forget the line between innocent teasing and bullying, we can all slutshame s, but this book reminds the reader how many danger lies in all those things.
on 15 June 2014
This book's synopsis instantly had me interested, and had I not had to go to work, I am sure this would have been finished in one sitting.
The perspective of this book is unique, in that you aren't reading from the victim's point of view, or even a sympathetic witness. The protagonist of the book is one of the bully's being taken to court over her actions, after Emma kills herself because of the bullying committed by Sara (whose viewpoint you are reading), Brielle and others.
The book flits between two time periods, the month or so before Emma's suicide and the current time when Sara is about to go to court.
Sara shows very little remorse throughout the book, which is hard to accept, I almost automatically assumed that any bully would hear about a suicide that was down in part to them and immediately feel some remorse at how they treated that person. Sara seems selfish at first, annoyed at how Emma's suicide mean people are being cruel to her in the street and always watching her (the irony Sara notes in the book is that people are bullying her over being bullied, and the irony I see is that she isn't sorry for treating Emma badly, but doesn't like people treating her badly, I guess both are true). However, you can see how she grows in the lead up to, and after the trial.
Due to the flitting between times, you can see why Sara behaves how she does, and the mentality behind calling her names. You are also shown how, in my opinion, she was manipulated a lot by her best friend, Brielle, who I didn't like at all.
Overall I thought this book was very good and I will be looking out for more books by Amanda!
on 9 June 2014
I have tried to write this review many times before but I just couldn't seem to do it. Not because it wasn't good, -- I think Tease was an amazing book but because it dealt with a topic that is just so hard to read about.
Tease is from Sara Wharton perspective, one of the bullies of Emma Putnam who by the time we are reading has already committed suicide. Let me tell you it was really hard reading a book from a bully’s point of view, from their life. But I learned while reading Tease that bullying doesn't just effect the victim but effect so much more.
I am not condoning bullying or bullies in any way but Tease is able to make the reader see not just victim's perspective but from the perspectives of everyone else.
Sara is, well, I think manipulated. Yes, she does bully Emma on her own account, but I think that deep down, she is actually being bullied herself by the manipulation of her ‘best-friend.’
Tease was a very hard book to read, but, like I said before, not because it was a bad book, but because of the subjects it deals with. There were a couple of times where I had to put the book down and just recapture my thoughts and feelings because sometimes it was a lot to take in.
I felt bad for Sara. What she did was horrible, but she had to deal with the consequences on her own. I felt like she was a pawn in a chess came. She was used as the mover. She did everything, but with the influence of others. Yes, no one can make you feel something, but they can change your feelings towards something.
Sara’s best friend wow, now she is a bully through and through. She was the puppeteer and Sara was the puppet.
A lot of people don’t like Sara at all, but I think there is much more to this story than what is really displayed. She is just so ‘weak,’ you could say, she doesn't understand that what she says hurts people.
I like how Tease went back and forth from the present to before Emma’s suicide. It gave me an insight on who the real bully was. Not just what is on the outside. It also gave us an idea of who Emma was and how she acted. What happened to her was horrible, but she also did some pretty bad things herself.
The language used in Tease is a bit out there and, from other young adult books that I have read, it’s one of the few that uses that sort of language. But then I realised that the language that is used by almost every teen and it’s normal. It may not be nice in anyway, but it’s real. And that is exactly what Tease is: real and raw
Tease was hard to read, but it is so powerful. How one little thing can lead to another little thing and then something big. How one mistake cannot just ruin your life, but the lives of those around you.
on 8 June 2014
The summary for Tease says it's inspired by a true story; I'd wager Tease is based on numerous true stories, rather than one, as the issues in the book are becoming scarily commonplace. Bullying between teenagers that gets out of control and leads to suicide is something I find myself reading about on the news over and over again; it never becomes less shocking and it seems to be getting worse, rather than better.
It was an extremely bold move by Maciel to write about the issues from the point of view of the bully, rather than the victim, but I think it was an exceptionally clever one. We get to hear Sara defend herself and explain her actions, we get to hear about the events that led up to the bullying spree that (maybe, we'll never know) led Emma to take her own life and we get to hear firsthand how a mob mentality can desensitive people to what they are actually doing.
Would the bullying have been so severe if it wasn't a group of them doing it? If it was Sara on her own would she have ambushed Emma in so many different ways, or would she just have had bitchy thoughts in her head but never acted on it? It's an interesting thing that I took away from the book. Do bullies need company; does laughing about it afterwards with friends help ease any guilt that may be present? If it's a group of you do you feel like you're 'all in it together' and get carried away, numb to any repercussions?
There are so many questions that Tease raises and it puts us in these difficult situations without apology. Sara maintains from page one that it isn't her fault Emma committed suicide, that the bullying she subjected her to was not that big of a deal, that Emma brought it on herself by her own actions, that Emma was already ill so suicide was inevitable. And, of course, we never really know what drove Emma to suicide - which is why I think setting the book after her death was such a clever idea.
I really, really enjoyed this book, despite the morbid subject matter. It was a fascinating look at high school life, destructive friendships and personal responsibility. Sara's voice was sharp as a tack, whether she was talking about her love life or the part she played in Emma's death, and I found it impossible to dislike her, whatever her flaws may be. Warming to Sara made me consider Emma's death from all angles and, controversial as it may be, when we saw flashbacks of certain events, it wasn't too difficult to see why Sara took such a strong dislike to Emma. Of course, I'm not suggesting that bullying somebody is the way to go! Though, it wasn't impossible to see why Sara had it in for Emma and, when encouraged by her group of friends, got carried away and took things too far, to a climax that was earth-shattering for every character involved.
Sara, Brielle and the other bullies are definitely not characters you'd want to be friends with. They're selfish, spoiled and cold. But they do feel real. Their actions are awful but they are the cruel, detached type of teenager that we all experienced in some capacity when we were that age. I'm sure lots of reviews out there will criticise Sara's character but, honestly, when was it decided that all protagonists have to be likeable people who are kind and sweet and always make the right decisions? Sara might not be a great person but she feels real which, for me at least, is the most important thing.
Tease might not have you laughing out loud or swooning over the love story, but it will entertain you, it will make you think and it will leave you with questions that you'll find yourself pondering for days after you finish reading. It's a book that you'll want to talk about and it's a book that won't be ignored.
on 1 June 2014
This is actually a really difficult book to review. I’m struggling to decide whether I liked it or not, not just because it deals with delicate subjects that I’m unsure were handled well, but also because I didn’t get absorbed with the characters or storyline completely.
So I guess I didn’t like it all that much, did I?
It’s certainly an interesting idea. A story about bullying from the point of view of the bully. But I’m not sure it did the job it set out to do (or at least, I think it should have set out to do). I’m a bit confused about the message and I feel like there should have been more of a distinct moral to the story, to show that bullying should not be tolerated by anyone, no matter what.
Of course, the fact that Emma is dead as a result of Sara and her friends’ actions shows that bullying can have devastating results, but Sara’s lack of remorse combined with the idea that Brielle (who is just as guilty as Sara, if not more so) has more or less gotten away with the whole thing with little impact on her happiness, almost makes the situation seem less serious and more forgiveable than it should be.
Plus, the entire way through, I really disliked pretty much every character in this book apart from Carmichael. I think that’s the point, but it’s really difficult to get through a book when you’re feeling so much hate the whole time.
My only hope was that I’d grow to like Sara as she came to realise the full weight of what she’d done and began to turn her life around. Except that didn’t really happen, did it?
Amanda Maciel certainly did a good job of making sure the reader didn’t sympathise with the bullies, though, which can’t have been an easy feat when the bully is the narrator of the entire novel.
Overall, I’m torn about whether or not to recommend this novel. It’s brave and unusual, and certainly unlike anything I’ve read before, and could spark some excellent discussions in schools, but I’d be worried about letting younger readers with palpable minds get their hands on this one, as I’m just not sure it’s got the anti-bullying message quite right.
on 13 May 2014
Whilst reading this book, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to a story in the news a few years ago about a 15-year-old Irish girl who moved to America with her family. What should have been an exciting adventure and a new beginning for Phoebe Prince soon turned into a living hell. After enduring months of bullying by her callous classmates, Phoebe tragically took her own life. Following her suicide, her story gained international attention, as her tormentors faced criminal charges for bullying, with the possibility of time in prison.
What I learnt upon finishing Tease was that the book was inspired by the events leading up to and following the death of Phoebe Prince, who like the bullied victim in Tease, Emma Putnam, was hounded relentlessly by her classmates until she ultimately decided that suicide was her only way out of her circumstances. What the novel does, however, is provide an objective insight into the mind of one of the accused, Sara Wharton.
I didn’t take to Sara at first or through the majority of the book, as her insistence throughout that she “didn’t do anything wrong” was reminiscent of a five-year-old shrieking hysterically in denial about having eaten all the cookies. Why couldn’t she show a little remorse for the fact that a former classmate was dead? This was the same classmate that she encouraged her best friend, Brielle, to ridicule at every opportunity, by practically cheering her on.
At no point does Sara tell vindictive Brielle to back off, despite at times disagreeing with her behaviour. She even partakes in some of the slut-shaming antics, and whilst assisting her lawyers in the legal proceedings, moans incessantly for ¾ of the way through the book that Emma killing herself has “totally ruined (her) life”.
Um, Emma is still dead, Sara. If anyone’s life is over, it’s hers. Stop being so self-absorbed.
With that being said, my irritation with Sara did not prevent me from enjoying the book. I found the author’s writing style to be engaging and the topic, enthralling. As the narrative progresses, more and more details are unveiled until you are presented with a full account of the events leading up to Emma Putnam's suicide and how each person involved played their part.
I slowly warmed to Sara in the scenes with her younger brothers, particularly when she is reflecting with remorse (finally, hooray!) on how her actions have had a negative impact on her siblings, whom she’d do anything to protect. When Sara finally attempts to redeem herself and accept responsibility for her actions, I found myself rejoicing and mentally crying out (I was on the underground at the time), It’s about bloody time, Sara! Although this moment occurred towards the very end of the book, it did not take away from the fact that she was clearly sorry for her actions.
As much as I despised Brielle and deplored the fact that Sara reached out to her at the very end, I begrudgingly understood why she did it. Despite being a mostly crappy friend towards the end, Brielle had been Sara’s closest confidant and ally since junior high, and the two shared a lot of happy (bully-free) memories. But ultimately some friendships need to end, particularly if they’re toxic.
Read more of my reviews at "Kidnapped by Fiction" - [...]
on 3 May 2014
Wow!! It took me a while after finishing Tease to write my review because I had to sit down and collect my thoughts. I really wasn't sure what to make of Amanda Maciel's controversial story.
I'm not sure about you, but bullying is always a pretty touchy subject for me. I'm always anti-bullying and I find the notion of empathising with bullies difficult. The really clever part of Tease is how Maciel analyses the role of the bully & asking these questions by putting her characters and readers through the ringer. Be warned Tease is very emotional.
Perhaps as a result of the current worrying trend of online bullying, trolls, teen depression and suicides, Maciel analyses the effects of bullying on teens. She asks who is really to blame and to what extent are we responsible for our actions?!
Told from Sara's POV the book looks at new girl Emma's suicide and shows the struggle to place blame. Is outspoken and bratty Sara to blame? Or is Brielle? Or the guys? Or should Emma herself be held responsible?
I really don't like it when women and young girls in particular like to 'slut' shame (think Mean Girls) and sometimes I really despised Sara and Brielle and their cronies, but then at other times I'd end up pitying them (which I was generally uncomfortable with).
We see Sara's actions before Emma's suicide and then her literally be put on trial after Emma's death. A vast amount of Tease is uncomfortable, but then that's exactly the point! I've seen some pretty harsh criticism of Tease for supposedly glorifying bullying and promiscuity in teens, but, to me at least, this is not what the story is about. Maciel points out the wrongs in 'slut' shaming and in bullying - us girlies need to stick together!
There were a few moments when the teen language seemed a little unnatural and when I found things a little slow and my attention began to wain. However, in general I found the story compelling, yet difficult. Emma and Sara will definitely stay with me!