I promised a review of Tease by Amanda Maciel yesterday, but since the title is Tease, I figured I would honour it and tease everyone with posting it late.
Anyway, that’s the excuse I told myself when I realised this morning that I forgot to write the review yesterday - whoops.
The title of the book needs to be interpreted in two ways: “Tease” is someone who teases guys and makes them sexually frustrated (hopefully fall in love with them if you’re a teen) and “Tease” stands for the act of the light bullying or harassing of someone.
The second definition of tease is what Sara Wharton thinks she is doing. She’s teasing the school’s tease Emma Putnam. Sara and Brielle, bff's and queen B of the school, hate Emma for stealing Sara’s boyfriend, and just generally because she is so pretty.
However, teasing is an understatement for the way the girls treat Emma - they are violent and mean and Emma commits suicide. Her parents blame the girls and their friends and sue all of them for the death of Emma.
This is the point where the book starts; Sara explains what happened and how totally unfair it is. Throughout the book, all the details of the bullying (because it’s definitely not teasing) and the details of the court case are revealed in an interesting plot order that jumps from present to past.
The major story elements in the book are based on true events, which makes this book a difficult read. It’s shocking that these events can happen in real life and you’ll ask yourself “but how??” at the end of the book.
Because that’s the strength of this book - it’s not overly moralistic or preachy in its message. It shows the dangers of bullying, but it also tries to show the causes of bullying. I feel like there are not enough books like that on the market and I hope this is the first of many.
Sara is insecure and just lost. She doesn’t know who she is or who she wants to be, so she just clings to people she thinks are perfect. This includes Brielle, who is the meanest teenager I ever read about, and her boyfriend who doesn’t really care about her too much. He proves this when he makes out with Emma at the Valentine Dance after-party.
Let the slutshaming begin.
I knew teenagers were cruel and mean and “oh god, don’t you dare be prettier than them or to be sexually confident”. But the intense slutshaming Sara puts Emma through makes it very hard to like her as a narrator. She starts off likeable enough, but as more details of the bullying are revealed, I started distancing from her. Especially since there is no real point in the story where I felt that Sara was actually truly sorry for what she did. I feel like there could be a sequel and Sara would slutshame the next girl who takes her boyfriend.
This makes it difficult to stay invested in the book, because you just want to punch Sara in the face for being so naive and dumb, but it also makes the book very realistic. Not everyone in life has a big changing moment - definitely not within a few days/ months/ years, like most novels portray. Some people just don’t get certain things and never will, no matter what happens. Sara is one of them, no matter how hard we root for her to change.
The author says she wanted to show the story from several angles; not just the one of the victim that the media always shows. Unfortunately, due to Sara’s immature behaviour, there is really no sympathy for her. I felt bad for her family, who had to suffer immensely due to the big court case. I felt bad for Emma and her family, and even for Sara’s boyfriend, who seemed to have actually really liked Emma (even though he does make some very questionably decision, none of them are illegal).
However, the topic is important enough that this book should be read by teenagers and older readers - we can all lose the plot, we can all forget the line between innocent teasing and bullying, we can all slutshame s, but this book reminds the reader how many danger lies in all those things.