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Tease by Amanda Maciel
Publisher: HarperCollins
Sale Date: April 29, 2014

From the publisher: From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.

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.

Tease is a difficult novel to read because it was incredibly believable. Amanda Maciel captures the social interactions, fixations, boredom and insecurities of the world of high school, particularly for teenaged girls, and shows the reader how little it takes to turn it into a toxic and destructive place.

The novel is told in flashbacks so that the reader pieces together the events, with some background knowledge of the motivation of the characters. The protagonist is a junior named Sara (ie, someone in grade 11). Sara and her best friend, Brielle, are a couple of the most popular girls at their school, and because of their popularity, they have an enormous amount of social klout and influence.

If these two girls had used their energy and efforts towards doing good, or even superficially building up their resumes, they could have been the types to be organizing the prom, holding fundraisers, running student council, and playing on teams — they have that much energy and focus when they set their minds on accomplishing a goal.

Unfortunately, they spend their spare time gossiping, planning pranks, looking down on everyone, and generally acting like queen bees. They are schadenfreude personified. Sara and Brielle focus all their hatred and schemes on a quiet, new student named Emma, and eventually, there is a critical mass that turns against Emma, which they take immense delight in orchestrating.

All the incidents of physical, emotional, and cyber bullying in the novel are hard to witness, especially because I have a daughter, because I teach in a high school, because I remember what high school was like. I know everything in the novel is possible. And author Maciel was inspired by real-life events.

So, my thoughts on Tease are that it is not an easy topic to read about, but one that needs to be continually addressed in as many ways as possible until the message gets through.The novel immersed me in the world of Sara’s high school and made me an observer to the bullying. I don’t like Sara and I can’t stand Brielle; I think the adults are useless, and yet, I can see all the characters of the novel existing in real life somewhere.

Tease is a novel that all students, parents and educators should read because it can help initiate discussions on bullying and hopefully prevent other tragedies like the one brought to life in this novel.

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