Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Book Title: Tease
Author: Amanda Maciel
Published Date: April 29th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.

Disclaimer: This was a library book.

Review:
It was no secret that I couldn’t finish my e-ARC of this book. It was too personal and as a former victim of bullying, I couldn’t swallow it without remembering my own experience with bullies and the acts of bullying I was subjected to. After talking to a few blogger friends, specifically Jamie, I decided to get it from the library and give it another shot. 

This book really doesn’t have a lot of decent characters, but thankfully, I don’t need the book to have decent, likable characters in order for me to actually like the book. Sara was not a likable character. She was beyond mean to Emma, she refused to see where she had done wrong and she didn’t see how it was a double standard of sorts for her to call Emma names, but heaven forbid Emma do anything like talk to Sara’s boyfriend. I do think Sara was a redeemable character which is much more than I can say for Brielle.

Brielle was the instigator of this stuff. She was always the one to come up with these “pranks” to hurt Emma and I think Sara, though she prided herself on knowing how to stand up for herself, was very much a follower. I think Brielle kind of controlled Sara and while I know Sara should have put an end to it, I don’t think she was brave enough to. 

In high school you have all of these expectations about sex and if you don’t measure up, then you are considered “weird” or “stupid” even “frigid” and “prude”

“I don’t- I mean everyone has sex.” -Sara-
“Not everyone does in high school.” -Teresa-
“Well they’re supposed to.” -Sara-

See, what did I say? Expectations.
The ending was my favorite part. Watching Sara realize exactly how she contributed to Emma’s suicide was a very satisfying journey. I would actually argue that Sara’s storyline was the most compelling part of the entire book. Watching her realize that yes she was to blame. So was Brielle. Her statement at the end of the book made me sob. It was beautiful and eloquent.
The split timeline was sometimes difficult to follow, and it was definitely hard for me to read sometimes. The flashbacks to where Brielle & Sara bullied Emma was hard for me to read because I’ve been in Emma’s position before and it was awful. High school was absolute hell and sometimes I begged for it to be over. I’ll be honest, yes I did think about suicide, but I never attempted it. 
I ended up enjoying this book more than I expected to. It was an important book and it was a book that transported me back to high school, a place I never, ever wanted to return to. I think high school students need to read this book. They need to know that their words can hurt. They need to know that their actions can hurt. 4 stars to this book that told the story from the point of view of the bully.

Review: 45 Pounds by K. A. Barson

Book Title: 45 Pounds (More or Less)
Author: K. A. Barson
Published Date: July 11th, 2013
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: YA Contemporary
Standalone
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonThe Book Depository
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother. 

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

Disclaimer: This was a library book.

Review:
This book was hard for me to read, mostly because I never struggled with my weight the way Ann did. So it was hard for me to understand the struggle that she had gone through. However the more broader topic of fitting in was one that I definitely understood. I never really fit in as a kid or as a teenager because I have serious health issues. That kinda stuff makes you stand out, even if you try hard to fit in.

This book also touched on family dynamics and while I am a child (and adult) of divorce, my family isn’t as dysfunctional as Ann’s is. Ann’s father & stepmom treat her like garbage, even having her come over to their home under the guise of wanting family time with her, when really they just wanted her to babysit her baby half brother. That part infuriated me.

At home she has her mom and stepdad and two younger siblings, Judd & Libby. Her mom is seemingly “perfect” until Ann realizes the way her mom talks about food, particularly around Ann and Libby is dangerous. Libby is already worrying about getting fat and dieting and other dangerous food related things. Ann wants desperately to model healthy habits for her younger sister since apparently, her mom doesn’t want to. 

And of course, Ann has an older brother who we don’t really see much of until the very end of the book. I wanted to see more of Tony and was disappointed because I think there was a lot of backstory from his end that we didn’t get a chance to see.

Acceptance is a big theme here. Ann has to learn to accept the family she’s got, a friendship that is dead in the water. Accept that her mom is not perfect and that mistakes have been made. Most importantly Ann learns to accept her body for what it is and I think that is the biggest message for teen girls and even teen boys. 

Body acceptance is a big thing as a teenager and so many kids go the extreme route and it ends up being something they always struggle with. It was definitely an enjoyable book and because of that, I’ll be giving it 4 stars. I do think it should be required reading in middle school and high school, because it was a very important book.