The summer before Sara Wharton’s senior year was supposed to be filled with friends and parties. Instead, Sara finds herself immersed in a world that believes she’s responsible for the death of her classmate, Emma Putnam. Faced with charges of harassment and bullying, Sara has to learn to deal with the consequences of her choices. But is it really Sara’s fault? Sara’s not so sure.

In her debut novel, Tease, Amanda Maciel (Balzer + Bray)  deals with issues facing every high-school student, but she does it in a way we don’t often see.  The issues of bullying and harassment are on the forefront of every student and teacher. With violence in schools being reported on daily, the need to have an open dialogue is essential.  What I hadn’t recognized, until I read Tease, is that every Y.A. novel I have read, presents a similar story: a victim dealing with the, usually unprovoked, hideous mistreatment at the hands of the school bully. The bully falling into a cookie-cutter stereotype, and the innocent victim overcoming diversity to triumph in the end. All of this unfolding through the eyes of the victim. This is not that book.

What Amanda Maciel has done with Tease is the humanization of the bully. She has presented the idea that while yes, tormenting another person is absolutely wrong, the tormentor is in fact human. The issue has more than one side. The idea of black and white leaves out an important part of the narrative. This story is Sara’s story. And Sara isn’t all that sorry about what she’s done.

Everyone thought Emma Putnam was a pain in the ass. We didn’t kill her, but I’m sorry, that doesn’t mean we liked her. And now that everyone’s decided we did kill her, or at least sort of, I think I like her even less than I did when she was alive.

How could Sara not be sorry?  This question is asked throughout the novel. The answer is fairly straightforward. While Sara knows that she has done some things she shouldn’t have, Emma, the victim. isn’t an angel either.

The cold smacks me in the face as soon as I step outside, and I still have my shoes in my hand, so my feet go numb almost immediately. And then the wind is in my eyes, which fill with tears before I can even blink. So at first, I’m not actually sure that I’m seeing what I’m seeing. But I am, I’m seeing it. At the other end of the balcony, leaning against the wall and totally oblivious that they’re not alone, are Dylan and Emma. I blink. Once, twice, but they don’t disappear. And they don’t stop kissing.

This novel addresses a fundamental issue I think is often overlooked in the reality of bullying; the victim is not perfect. Perfection isn’t a prerequisite and the underlying problems are often complex. To confront the  realities of bullying we need to begin looking at the entire context. Tease does just that.   Amanda Maciel offers up a provocative novel that delves into a familiar subject with an honest voice .

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