Book Review : Tease by Amanda Maciel

August 11, 2014 Book review 7 ★★★½

This book packs a huge emotional punch. It tackles bullying (and may be a bit triggery if this is an issue for you) but it’s an important book and one that should be read. Do be aware that it is told from the point of view of the bully though.

Book Review : Tease by Amanda MacielTease by Amanda Maciel
Published by Hachette Children's Books on 2014-04-29
Genres: Emotions & Feelings, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.

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.

With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.

First line of Tease by Amanda Maciel

‘Did you ever have a physical confrontation with Miss Putnam?’

My thoughts on Tease by Amanda Maciel

When I started this book, I took an immediate dislike Sara and thought she was pretty repulsive. I hated her poor me attitude and her aggressive, sulky interactions with her legal team. My heart felt like a block of ice when it came to my feelings for her. But gradually, chip by chip, that ice started break down and I started to really see her and really listen to her side.

Telling this story from the point of view of the bully is a risky approach as it’s uncomfortable seeing through Sara eyes and I was wriggling around at times as her thinking just made me uneasy. I love that the book doesn’t shy away from how mean Sara was to Emma. She may not have been the ringleader but she was there cheering it all on and the book doesn’t downplay that all. Amanda Maciel takes the mean girl clique and pokes away it until you understand the insecurities that are the driving force behind it.

It is told through two timelines; during the bullying and then afterwards. I was hugely invested in both timelines and think this structure really helped with pace of the book. There is a lot of reflective thinking going on and I think the book would have dragged without the dual timeline structure. This way you only get snippets of the bullying as we go along and seeing it escalate is gripping and horribly realistic.

I also thought the name of the book was really interesting and thought-provoking. Emma (the girl who was bullied) allegedly called Sara a tease which kind of started the whole incident. We never know if she actually said it or not. And it’s not even important whether she did or not but it shows how nothing is black and white. You get the feeling that if they met under different circumstances that Emma and Sara would have good friends for each other.

The book also shows the bullies in turn became victims when the world turned on them. I never expected to feel sympathy for Sara but I did. She was beyond stupid but paid a hell of a price for it. It felt ironic that the crowd harassed Sara and her friends for bullying but not while the bullying was happening, only afterwards when they were easy targets.

The highlighting of social bullying was another area that really hit home. There is nothing new about bullying but at least before you could go home and the bullies might have been in your head but they weren’t in your home. Now they are an ever-present threat on your phone, your laptop, your computer and there is no escape from their relentless taunts.

I did feel that I would love to have known Emma a bit better so I could really understand what she went through. Even something like some diary entries from her would have got that perspective across better. And I appreciate that is not the direction this book took but I also feel that not giving the victim a voice is a bit sad. Obviously her actions were the ultimate statement into how she felt but I would have liked a better look into her thoughts and emotions during the book.

Overall though this is a very thought-provoking book and should be compulsory reading in school. It would be a great discussion starter book into the dangers of bullying and just how many versions there are to every story. Not to mention a stark reminder that the old saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ is one of the biggest lies ever told.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: three-half-stars


Who should read Tease by Amanda Maciel?

If you like contemporary YA books that take on heavy topics and deal with them in a meaningful way, then I’d highly recommend this one to you. This is also a book that should be read by parents, teachers, etc as it is insightful and will increase your awareness and understanding of this always present subject. Read it, think about it , talk about it. I don’t know what the solution to stopping bullying is but highlighting it and talking is a start.

Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Childrens Books for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.




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7 Responses to “Book Review : Tease by Amanda Maciel”

  1. Rachel

    I really struggled with this book, and still do. I felt it uncomfortable to be inside the head of a bully too (and a rather easily led one at that – but then we all did silly things when we were young). Towards the end of the book I did start feeling a little more sympathy for Sara, but none at all for the ringleader. And I have to say, as much as Emma was the victim, I felt at times that she didn’t do herself any favours either, that she participated in similar behaviour, and it is hinted that there is a history of depression or something similar. Overall, I felt this book was much deeper than I gave it credit for, and shows just how grey an area this all is. Although I found it uncomfortable and challenging, it really was excellent at making me think and it has stayed with me for a long time.

    My Review:

    R x
    Rachel recently posted…Bookish Countdown Survey

    • trish

      I agree that there is a lot of grey in this book. I’d love to have known more about Emma and her relationship with her parents and why she moved school so often. The fact she wasn’t blameless added another twist and again shows how complicated this all is. As did the bullying that then happened to Sara. I thought it so ironic that she was bullied for being a bully. Like you I didn’t flat out love this book but it’s a great one for making you think.

  2. Valerie

    Oh boy, I don’t think I could ever read this book because of the bullying topic, and especially when it’s about someone who is involved with the actual bullying. I remember reading The Hate List (really good btw), and getting second-hand….embarrassment/GUILT even though the main character did nothing wrong.
    Valerie recently posted…Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters

    • trish

      I will check out The Hate List 🙂 Yes, this was very hard to read at times and I hated what the bullies did but the book did a great job of illustrating not everything is black and white. I know exactly what you mean about the second hand guilt, I was so uncomfortable at times.

    • trish

      I love when an author can sway you. I still hated what Sara did but I understood how she got to such a bad place.

  3. CeCe

    Very interesting take on this book. I got this one at BEA and since I haven’t read many bullying books have been side eyeing and wondering where on the to-read list it should fall. Even though you didn’t completely love it, your review has interested me enough to want to see what it’s all about for myself. I love that you mention it should be compulsory reading for students. There are so many books out there that deal with real teen issues that it makes me wonder why we spend so much of our schooling reading old classics that teems struggle to relate to.
    CeCe recently posted…My Thoughts on the If I Stay Movie

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