By Amanda Maciel Tease - Amanda Maciel

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.

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Teenager Emma Putnam is found dead and now Sara Wharton and three of her friends are being charged with bullying / harrassment, believed to have played a key role in Emma's decision to take her own life. In the time prior to the case going to trial, more and more Sara finds herself being socially ostracize.

 

The reader learns Emma's history: a redhead who struggled to develop friendships with the other girls in her school (set up as Emma was just SO pretty it would send other girls into deep, unchecked jealousy). Emma is labeled a slut / boyfriend stealer. In addition, Sara and her best friend Brielle set up a fake FB account where they can publicly shame Emma. Word of the profile page gets around school and Sara & Brielle find themselves in the principal's office getting a lecture on the school's bullying policy... which only incites them to find even more ways to throw hate Emma's way. 

 

I'd say by now the topic of bullying has been solidly covered in YA fiction, as it should be... but this particular novel doesn't really bring anything new to the table. I found no one to really root for (even Emma, when you get to know her story, had her unlikeable qualities), very few redeeming qualities in any of the characters and no one stepping up to take responsibility for their actions. More like everyone comes forward with their versions of "I don't see how I did anything wrong!" If anything, Sara played victim, at one point even saying, "my family gives me strength to get through this"... girl, what? We're all here BECAUSE of you! She rips one into Carmichael but then follows with "Maybe you could take me out for dinner"... Oh, but then she tries with the half-hearted apology for her actions slipped into the second to last chapter? Nah. Nope. Definitely didn't buy that. 

 

What I will give this book credit for though is the resources page at the very back, three pages of books, websites and organizations you can explore if you are feeling depressed or suicidal, a most important tool for teens in these times. For educators, I would also perhaps recommend a viewing of the films Bully and Mean Creek, gritty stories that depict just how dangerously far bullying can go.