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.
I was skeptical going into this one. I had seen there were some not so good reviews and that worried me. But on the flip side there were some high reviews too. Basically I was confused. Since I knew I wanted to read Tease for a long time I decided to ignore the bad and go for it. I’m glad I did because it ended up being a strong book from a voice you don’t get to hear often, the voice of a bully.
Tease is told from the voice of Sara, a girl accused of bullying a classmate to the point that the classmate committed suicide. Having been charged in connection with Emma’s death Sara spends her summer with lawyers and therapists and summer school recalling everything that lead up to Emma’s suicide and the role she played in it. The book is told from the perspective of two different timelines which shows where Sara was and where she is now and where she can go after dealing with the consequences of being a bully.
To me the title of this book has two meanings. Whether that was on purpose or not I don’t know but it worked. Tease can actually mean two things. One is a slang term usually used to describe girls in the sexual nature and the other is the real definition of when you poke fun at someone. Both descriptions of the word truly fit this book in just about every way. In the past timeline, when Emma was still alive, Sara and her best friend Brielle constantly called Emma mean names like slut and whore and Emma retaliated by calling Sara a tease. It was one of the main reasons Sara and Brielle were after Emma. And in the present timeline Sara uses tease to try to explain away her actions trying to say they were just joking with her. It was a really a great dichotomy.
When I was in high school bullying was just that, teasing. Everything was dulled down because we didn’t have the resources like kids do now. There was no Facebook or Twitter or any other social media that helped enable teasing to the level of bullying it’s at now. People like Sara and Brielle don’t think about what their words can do, not just in real life but in the ‘anonymity’ of the web. These girls thought they were untouchable and that they were fixing a wrong.
Which brings me to Sara herself. She was a character that was hard to like but also hard to not feel bad for. There is no denying that was was wrong. She was mean and deliberately acted Emma. She went out of her way to hurt this girl in any way she could. Was she pushed into it by her friend Brielle? Sure. But she made the decision to be a bully and no justification would change that. Why I felt bad for her? She was really a scared girl that just wanted to be liked and a part of a group. She was desperate to belong and to belong she fell into a situation she shouldn’t have put herself in. It broke my heart while making me mad. Like in all good books though it was nice to watch Sara on this journey and to see if she could grow, learn and change.
Tease is a book that people should give a chance. Readers are going to have trouble with the narrator and that’s the point. It’s a story about what’s real and relevant to the world right now. It’s about consequences and the aftermath of a tragedy you’ve played a part in. It’s a book that should be read and discussed. It’s a book I’m glad I read.