A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tease is about high school bullying that results in a teen girl's suicide. It's fiction, but it's based on the true case of Phoebe Prince, a Massachusetts teenager who committed suicide in 2010 after being harassed by classmates. The story is told from the point of view of one of the bullies, which gives the reader insight into why some teens behave in cruel ways, but the book never excuses the behavior. Characters physically bully, cyberbully, and hurl a lot of verbal abuse, including a steady stream of terms such as "slut," "ho," and "skank." Teen characters have sex, drink (often to excess), and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. Profanities include "f--k," "a--hole," and "crap."
What's the story?
Author Amanda Maciel tackles the tough subject of teen bullying by telling the story from the point of view of Sara Wharton, one of the teens on trial for harassing and stalking Emma Putnam. Sara's actions pushed the already-troubled Emma to kill herself. Because of Emma's suicide, the criminal charges, and the resulting national media coverage, the bullies become outcasts in their small town and can't predict the impact their actions and the court cases against them will have on their futures.
Each chapter alternates between Sara's present situation -- therapy, preparing for trial, and the loneliness of having no contact with her friends -- and the events several months earlier that culminated with Emma's suicide. By using Sara as the narrator, Maciel gives readers a glimpse into the mindset of a bully without condoning her behavior. Sara has to work through what she's done and learn how to take responsibility for her actions.
Is it any good?
TEASE is a compelling debut novel from Maciel. When Emma Putnam transfers to Sara Wharton's school, she makes the error of flirting with and dating older, popular boys. The popular girls aren't having it, and quintessential mean girl Brielle, Sara's best friend, begins a campaign of cruelty that starts with whispers and name-calling and escalates into cyberbullying and accusations of statutory rape. The author deftly examines the issue of teen bullying from both sides, rather than painting the characters in terms of good versus evil, though there is a healthy dose of evil in one of the characters. By showing the reader the events from the bully's point of view, we see that some unhappy people spread their unhappiness around, whereas others are so desperate for approval and belonging that they let themselves be swept along by stronger personalities, eventually losing their sense of self in the process.
Maciel hooks the reader by shifting the action between present time and the months preceding Emma's suicide. We know where Sara is, but how did such a normal-seeming teen like her get there? The interactions between the teen characters, although often vapid and reckless, are authentic. Their friendships and romantic relationships highlight how difficult and complex the teen years can be for many kids. Sara can be an annoying narrator at times, becoming whiny and self-absorbed once the town turns on her in the wake of Emma's death. She initially cannot see the irony of her despair at having her life ripped apart due to her tormenting of another person. Tease leaves teen and adult readers with a lot to contemplate regarding healthy friendships, parent-child relationships, empathy, cruelty, jealousy, and compassion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about problematic friendships. Parents: Have you ever wanted to limit one of your child's friendships? Kids: Have you ever had a friendship you realized wasn't healthy for you? How did you deal with these situations? What might you do differently?
Have you seen anyone get bullied or treated poorly over social media? Does anyone you know say things through social media they would never say to someone's face? Can you think of ways to combat this?
Do you think some anti-bullying efforts by schools drives the behavior underground? Which common policies by schools do you think are worthwhile, and which do you think are ineffective? What are some everyday things kids can do to deter bullying?
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