Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Sara Wharton is a bully. She and her friends are at the top social tier of the school with football players and they tormented Emma Putnam every single day. They called her names, set up fake social media accounts, and stalked her, among other numerous things. The abuse escalated until Emma committed suicide. Now Sara and four of her classmates are being charged criminally for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's death. The public has already judged them and treat them similar to how they treated Emma. They are ostracized, called names, and seen as the lowest of the low. Sara maintains that she has done nothing wrong because she didn't commit murder and remains unconvinced that Emma didn't deserve to be treated that way. Sara has plenty of time to reflect on the time between meeting with her lawyers, her therapist, and going to summer school. Not only does she have to come to terms with her actions, but she also has to figure out how to move forward with her life.

Cases like Emma's are unfortunately not uncommon. I can remember numerous cases where young people were tormented by bullies and decided to take their lives. It's easy to empathize and sympathize with the victims of these bullies, but it's hard for me to feel anything but anger and disgust for unrepentant bullies. A recent case comes to mind where two girls aged 12 and 14 stalked and bullied a girl who then committed suicide. Their response was IDGAF (I don't give a fuck). I had no idea how someone could be so callous and cruel or what kind of thought process goes into that. Now I have some idea. Sara is not an easy narrator to relate to or even like. Much of her narrative made me enraged because of how clueless she was to what her actions caused. She maintains that she did nothing wrong and justifies her incredibly hurtful actions by saying everyone else does it and Emma deserved it. Throughout most of the book, she shows no remorse and only laments how her life is ruined. However, no bully is completely evil and they don't deserve to in turn be bullied. We should be trying to work to educate people so things like this don't happen instead of justifying and perpetuating bullying behavior. In an article about the girls I mentioned earlier, the comments section is full of people calling them names and saying they deserve to die or be incarcerated for life. How is this any different than what those girls did?

The themes in the novel are relevant to teens today. Peer pressure is a major reason why so many people bullied Emma and the situation got so out of hand. Teens want to appear cool and do what they popular kids are doing. Sara had a toxic relationship with her best friend Brielle queen bee of the school, who put down everyone including her friends. She manipulated those around her and masterminded a lot of the abuse. Sara went along with it for a while and then went to extremes with it because of Brielle's support. Their relationship skewed what is right and wrong because they acted like an echo chamber where dissent is grounds for social suicide. Another strong theme is sexuality and how its perceived by others. If girls are sexual in any way, including simply initiating conversations with boys, they are labeled sluts. If they withhold sex, they are labeled prudes and teases. Boys are rarely looked down upon for their sexuality, even if they cheat on their girlfriends or have multiple partners. The girl they cheated with (in this case Emma) bears all the consequences of an action that takes two people. Society's skewed view of female sexuality hurts these girls: Emma is a slut for "sleeping around" (which may not even be true) and this label is the main reason why she is so tormented by her classmates; Sara has sex with her boyfriend not because she wants to, but because it's what's expected of her or her boyfriend will go elsewhere if she doesn't; and Brielle blames herself for being raped and dismisses her own negative feelings about it. These issues still affect women in adulthood and it's a major societal problem that needs to be addressed.

Tease is an important novel because it touches on a lot of issues teens have to face and makes us see another side of bullying. No one in the story is perfect. Even Emma makes mistakes and says hurtful things, but she doesn't deserve to be stalked and humiliated at every turn. Neither does Sara, even though much of what she did was horrible. This is the best book I've seen about bullying. I only have one complaint. I would like to have seen Emma's perspective. I don't think Sara ever really understood her or thought to see the situation from her perspective.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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