Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tease Enters Lives of Today's Bullies... Check out YA Novel by Amanda Maciel

Like everything else, this whole process is not at all like it is on TV. I mean, I'm wearing jean shorts right now. There's no dramatic courtroom scene or anything--like, with the afternoon sunlight streaming through big windows while I cry and confess everything on the witness stand or whatever. Apparently you're not even supposed to want to go to court at all, though it's gotta beat this, even if it's not pretty or cinematic. We're all sitting in a windowless room with a peeling fake-wood table (which I guess doesn't matter, except I've been staring at it for three hours), and the lights are too bright and the AC is on so high I don't even feel cold anymore, just numb.
I guess I've been numb for a while now.
But I didn't kill anybody.
I sneak another glance at the intern. He's black, with short hair and the smoothest skin ever. It's very dark. and it looks nice against his shirt, which is a bright lilac color. It reminds me of one of the nail polishes I used to always pick for pedicures, back when going to the salon was no big deal. Before everything was in the newspaper every other day and people at the grocery store started calling me names. Even when I'm just picking up stupid chips and salsa for my little brothers. They've yelled at me in the aisles, said the meanest things.
I never really understood "irony" when Mrs. Thale tried to teach us about it in English, but I sure get it now. Now that I get bullied for being a bully. I haven't tried explaining it to the people at the grocery store, though. Mom says that they're morons and I should ignore them, and for once I agree with her.
"Tell us what happened that day."
Some pictures used are from the actual memory of all those affected...May they find peace and understanding...

By Amanda Maciel

It is hard for someone of my age to read a book like this. It goes against everything I was ever taught or learned about interpersonal relationships. That's why I find it equally hard to say that this YA novel is an outstanding example of what today's children are daily experiencing--your children, perhaps. Peer pressure is a theme that runs clearly through the novel... Social identity is created by friends, and even those who are not friends, as opposed to parents, church and other traditional arenas in which children were taught. Language these days use words we don't even "think" about, little on say...
I can't look Teresa in the eye, though I
know she's still giving me that stare,
but anywhere I look all I can see is
Emma's hair. All that red hair, hanging
from the garage ceiling. I wasn't
there, of course, and I've tried so hard
not to even think about it for a second.
And now I feel like I'm standing in that
What the F___, Emma? What is
wrong with you?

Technically, the school has this big anti-bullying
policy. None of us have ever seen it in action,
but they like to talk about it at assemblies and
stuff, and Principal Schoen's words at our post-
Facebook-page meeting ring in my ears again.
If anyone figures out that all those roses are
from me and Brielle, they'll definitely assume
we're the ones who wrote on her locker, too.
No, that's not an attempt to make that stereotypical for all children and teens...but, for this book, it is. It was inspired by true stories, and one in particular. In January 2010, a young student at South Hadley High School tragically took her own life. In a precedent-setting lawsuit against six other students at South Hadley High, those students were accused of bullying and harassing the girl who killed herself. Of course, I and anybody who reads the book will begin to form personal opinions of what happened and the role of those involved individuals, but I'll not include them--they are really irrelevant... This book is a fictional story based upon that tragedy... Please note that it does not include any violence that actually occurred...

It's just a prank. Obviously we're trying to call Emma
out for being a boyfriend-stealing skank, but they're
just flowers. The locker thing, though, feels like it's
kicking everything up a notch, defacing school property
I mean, the sign in her yard was public, but this is
right there, right where everyone can see it.  Suddenly
I'm scared again--terrified, really--of getting into
serious trouble...
Emma had just transferred and was beautiful, friendly, especially with the boys, and soon was dating. In fact, she thought nothing about texting to boys and initiating contact. Gossip, of course, began because it was assumed, or in reality, meant that she was willing to take boyfriends away and not to "tease" them like their girlfriends apparently were doing... The number of boys she was involved with at one time or another increased. Both boys and girls started calling her a slut, a skank...

Some, though, said she was nice and that she had a background that should be considered and everybody should try to be nicer to her.

Much of what occurred, it seemed to me, was nonverbal at first, so that interpretation of facial expressions were by the bully, especially, in deciding to act. Now most of us know that nonverbal communication is normally the more true, so readers will find that nothing comes across as black and white. Was she actually trying to steal everybody's boyfriends, or were the girls dating the boys automatically jealous and scared of the competition? 
And without her {Brielle her best friend does not return to school}
 I can't deal. Because my instinct is to just disappear. Thanks to
Emma Putnam, I'll never be invisible again, no matter how hard
I try. With Brielle, I could've turned into a yearbook girl, a
popular girl, a confident girl. Emma turned me into a mean girl.

One girl, alone, was, in the end, getting the brunt of the aftershocks... She was not rich, she was still in school--which meant that she was the only one that was really facing her peers after Emma was dead. And, of course, all of the students who had participated in/or actually initiated some of the bullying, who were not charged, found it acceptable to immediately start bullying the bully...even though they had been just as involved, except peripherally...

Sara and Brielle [one of the rich girls in school] had become friends, although readers will pick up that Brielle was clearly the dominating partner in the relationship, Sara, though, knew that she needed to be grateful because she never would have been involved with as much as she was if not for Brielle. Her father had divorced her mother and now had a new family far away. Sara was surrogate mother for most of her time for her two brothers. But it is clear that she really loved them and didn't mind, most of the time... But when Brielle started a number of things that happened, Sara didn't know how to talk to her--that is, say "no..." So, instead of saying "no" to her boyfriend, Dylan, she said "yes" to Brielle's insistence that she...should... And she held the party, and provided the booze to get both of them so out of it that it didn't seem that either of them cared much about it at all... sad to say... But now, Sara and Brielle were sharing the experience...

The book moves from the time Emma enters the school, through her death and the legal case, including psychiatry meetings, and back to school the next year.  Young adults, I believe, will hang on to each event that happens--this is their daily lives. Walking through the halls with friends, sometimes being knocked around accidentally--but sometimes on purpose. Who was at fault? Students, parents, and school officials all had a small or large part. I think it's important for those in junior and senior high school to read and digest exactly what was happening. Somebody says "shut up" or calls people names... They think nothing of it--because everybody is doing it. But that's how bullying starts and then gets worse and worse. Until it is too late for some...

Please consider this book for your children and read it yourself as parents or others who routinely have contact with our young. It's important to confront issues early. Nobody should ever be hurt through bullying! I believe you'll know if this is a must-read for you...


Amanda Maciel has worked in book publishing since graduating from Mount Holyoke College and is currently an executive editor of children's books. She spends her free time writing, running, and helping raise her young son with her husband and their cat in Brooklyn, New York. TEASE is her first novel.

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