Book Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Publication Date: 1st May 2014
Whilst reading this book, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to a story in the news a few years ago about a 15-year-old Irish girl who moved to America with her family. What should have been an exciting adventure and a new beginning for Phoebe Prince soon turned into a living hell. After enduring months of bullying by her callous classmates, Phoebe tragically took her own life. Following her suicide, her story gained international attention, as her tormentors faced criminal charges for bullying, with the possibility of time in prison.

What I learnt upon finishing Tease was that the book was inspired by the events leading up to and following the death of Phoebe Prince, who like the bullied victim in Tease, Emma Putnam, was hounded relentlessly by her classmates until she ultimately decided that suicide was her only way out of her circumstances. What the novel does, however, is provide an objective insight into the mind of one of the accused, Sara Wharton.

I didn’t take to Sara at first or through the majority of the book, as her insistence throughout that she “didn’t do anything wrong” was reminiscent of a five-year-old shrieking hysterically in denial about having eaten all the cookies. Why couldn’t she show a little remorse for the fact that a former classmate was dead? This was the same classmate that she encouraged her best friend, Brielle, to ridicule at every opportunity, by practically cheering her on. 

At no point does Sara tell vindictive Brielle to back off, despite at times disagreeing with her behaviour. She even partakes in some of the slut-shaming antics, and whilst assisting her lawyers in the legal proceedings, moans incessantly for ¾ of the way through the book that Emma killing herself has “totally ruined (her) life”.

Um, Emma is still dead, Sara. If anyone’s life is over, it’s hers. Stop being so self-absorbed.

With that being said, my irritation with Sara did not prevent me from enjoying the book. I found the author’s writing style to be engaging and the topic, enthralling. As the narrative progresses, more and more details are unveiled until you are presented with a full account of the events leading up to Emma Putnam's suicide and how each person involved played their part.

I slowly warmed to Sara in the scenes with her younger brothers, particularly when she is reflecting with remorse (finally, hooray!) on how her actions have had a negative impact on her siblings, whom she’d do anything to protect. When Sara finally attempts to redeem herself and accept responsibility for her actions, I found myself rejoicing and mentally crying out (I was on the underground at the time), It’s about bloody time, Sara! Although this moment occurred towards the very end of the book, it did not take away from the fact that she was clearly sorry for her actions.

As much as I despised Brielle and deplored the fact that Sara reached out to her at the very end, I begrudgingly understood why she did it. Despite being a mostly crappy friend towards the end, Brielle had been Sara’s closest confidant and ally since junior high, and the two shared a lot of happy (bully-free) memories. But ultimately some friendships need to end, particularly if they’re toxic.

My rating: