Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault. At least, that's what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who's ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she'll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.
This book was a whirlwind of emotions for me. On one hand, I do not condone bullying in anyway. On the other, I have been to an all girl school and I realise just how fine the line is between bullying and an intense dislike for someone. Some elements are stronger than others, but the strongest bits are definitely worth 5 stars whereas I felt weaker bits such as poor reasoning of characterisation being worthy of 3 stars, therefore giving this book a weird sliding scale.
As the blurb above states, Emma Putnam has committed suicide and Sara is partly to blame, at least in the eyes of the law.
The story is only seen from Sara's eyes so it's kind of hard to see exactly where the divide between Emma's personal problems and Sara's behaviour is. As it is, Sara is able to see that she doesn't always want to do/say the things she does to Emma but after the fact, especially when put on trial, it's a lot harder for her to associate herself with her own behaviour.
Emma is generally being bullied for supposedly being a "slut" which sadly is something a lot of young girls are willing to call each other, regardless of whether any actual "slut behaviour" has occurred. I felt very uncomfortable reading in Sara's perspective sometimes because some of the things she does are just so cruel and she continues to disassociate herself from things that she 100% definitely did.
This book goes through two different timelines, the first is a time where Emma is alive, and the second follows Sara going through the trial prep and therapy. I like how the chapter typography lets you know which point in the story you're at and I think that was a good choice because it prepares you for being back in Sara's mindset when she was bullying Sara.
Because despite the reasons that Sara had for not being nice to Emma, she did very much bully her and put her down to make herself feel better and it genuinely hurt my heart to read it happening.
Despite this, I still found myself feeling sorry for Sara. I know this makes me seem like a disgusting person, but she is also hurting over the course of this book. She has to come to terms with the fact that her actions resulted in pushing someone over the edge and that her everyone she knows, including her own mother, now sees her differently. Most importantly I think is that she comes to terms with seeing why/how people are looking at her differently. I felt a bit awkward about where Maciel decided to take Sara's personal story even though I know
One interesting thing that I think Maciel picks up on perfectly is the mentally of the girls that were perfectly happy joining in Emma's bullying either directly or passively, but only standing up for Emma after she's clearly felt that she's had no one to turn to. I've seen things like this happen a lot and if I'm honest, it infuriates me because right is right regardless of the situation. If someone is being unnecessarily harsh, you should feel comfortable telling them so regardless of whether someone is alive or dead. If for no other reason than to feel comfortable within yourself.
- Sara- I found it hard to like her, but I also understood that she genuinely believed she had a reason to treat Emma in the manner that she did. So much emphasis is placed on how many people like you and whether you're at the top of the social heap that it can be harder for girls to remember that they're human. Overall, I think she's a very misguided character that needed to have been sat down and given a very good talking to.
- Brielle -
Good thing her name already begins with a B cos then it's not so hard to call her a bitch.Brielle is the main instigator of the behaviour that Sara believes is acceptable (Sara is still to blame, don't get me wrong) but she is definitely under the influence of peer pressure from this character. Honestly, I feel like she's one of those characters/people that just have hearts made of ice and refuse to think about anyone else. Maciel perhaps attempts to "redeem" this character by revealing a sad secret but if anything, to me, it made her character worse. A sad/unpleasant event in your life does not allow you to then induce the same feelings into other people and I feel like a lot of people don't recognise this and it alows the behavior to continue. This gif sums it up perfectly:
- Emma - obviously Emma spends most of the book dead and when she's alive the narrator doesn't have the best view of her or even care about her as a person so we don't really get to really understand her character. One the one hand, I'd have loved to see who she was a person, on the other, it would have broken my heart to see her so sad so often. She tries to appeal to Sara's better side at multiple points during the book so I think she has a large capacity for forgiveness that is beautiful.
- Dylan - this piece of s#*!. He is the main catalyst for the entire series of events and he's not even worth it. He's a terrible boyfriend to all/both the girls unlucky enough to date him. He's not supportive and he should have been more forceful in telling Sara to stop bullying Emma. Boys seem to have this genetic predisposition to run and hide from "girl drama" and Dylan seems to have got this gene in triplicate.
Recommend to: all teenagers, fans of 13 reasons why
Rating: 4 stars