ARC Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel


Genres: Young Adult, Drama, Contemporary, Social Issues
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Publishing House: Balzer and Bray
Number of pages: 336
Source: ARC from Netgalley
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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.

“She asked for it.”

“It didn’t have to happen if she didn’t do this… if she didn’t do that…”

“We didn’t kill her. She did this to herself.”

How many times have we seen these excuses being said by bullies and perpetrators, in defense of their horrible actions? How many times have we read these kinds of comments by people on the internet, heavy words easily thrown under the veil of anonymity? Too many times, I bet. Once is already too much. And every time I stumble upon such words, such implications, I feel dark and empty inside, and I wonder if the people in our society are devolving into hideous monsters who have no ounce of compassion in their veins.

So to read a book about bullying, about slut-shaming, from the perspective of a bully and a slut-shamer, was… a different kind of experience. I can’t describe it, but let’s just say that after reading this book, I felt like showering myself ten times over.

Sara Wharton is about to go on trial. A schoolmate of hers, beautiful Emma Putnam with her fiery red hair, was found dead in the garage of her parents’ house. She committed suicide, a tragic end that was the result of months and months of harassing and bullying online and offline from the clutches of Sara, her best friend Queen Bee Brielle, and the rest of their group. Because of her death, Sara believes her life is over. She lost friends. She lost her boyfriend. Her life was ruined. Why does everyone hate her now? She never wanted this to happen. She never wanted Emma to kill herself. All she wanted was for “slutty” Emma to leave her and her boyfriend alone. However, she is about to realize, that maybe, just maybe, things are not that simple.

Tease was hard to read, especially the first 80-90%. I’ve read a lot of bullying books before, but it has always been in the perspective of the victim, making the characters easier to sympathize with. This book was different in that sense, as we see the story unfold from the perspective of a bully, someone who showed a complete lack of remorse of what she has done, someone who couldn’t see beyond herself. She wanted to please everyone in her circle, especially Brielle,  to the point that she had sex with her boyfriend so they can have something in common, to the point of bullying Emma just to keep up with Queen Bee. For many years, she has stayed in her best friend’s shadow as her sidekick. Brielle says “skank!”, she echoes it. Brielle says “whore!”, she repeats it. Brielle calls someone a “bitch slut”, she doesn’t hesitate to call that someone the same names, too. And every time she does, she feels powerful. Like she finally has an advantage over someone. Like she can control them through the words she uses, through the actions she does. She gets a thrill out of it. Who knew making someone fear you was so easy? Just say a few things on Facebook, make fake profiles on Twitter, and you can change someone’s outlook in life. Just with a click. Just with a few minutes. And then that someone turns up dead the next day.

You can see why I felt dirty while reading Sara’s thoughts. She was so hard to like. I hated how for the majority of the book, she kept thinking she wasn’t in the wrong. So what if she bullied Emma? Emma started it! It didn’t have to happen if Emma didn’t steal her boyfriend! Emma didn’t have to end her life if she didn’t allow what happened to affect her! Excuses after excuses after excuses… her internal monologue was largely disturbing and uncomfortable, and I thought to myself, “is this what bullies think when they get caught? That it’s the victim’s fault for being bullied?”

And the thing is, it’s probably what some of them think. And it’s probably encouraged by their peers, and because of that, they find themselves blameless. It illustrates to us the possible reasons why there is so much victim-shaming and slut-shaming up to this day. Everyone knew Emma was being bullied, and yet no one really stopped it. Since Sara and Brielle were at the top of the high school food chain, almost everyone followed their lead. Not to mention, the lack of parental figures to help the teenager’s morals also was a factor. If there’s no adult to lead you, to help you, to answer your questions, you turn to your peers. It’s not always the case, but sometimes, they’re the bad influence. 

There was a scene later in the book where Sara’s absent father was scolding her for not being accountable for her actions. He reprimanded her for being such a child, and that she should grow up. Sara, hurt, replied with tears (non-verbatim), “Maybe I am a child, have you ever thought of that? There was no one there to help me grow up.”

One thing is for sure, this book made me think a lot about today’s social issues. As a culture, as a society, there is still much for us to learn, so much for us that we need to be aware of. From bullying, to victim-shaming, to slut-shaming… these are things that still run rampant up to this day, and it’s such a shame that acts of kindness are more the exemption than the rule. But the thing is, this toxic world that we live in, there are many factors that contribute to its being poisonous. It’s true that it’s up to the person to choose whether or not to make life hell for someone else, but we’ve to stop and pause for a while and think why such options seem better for certain people. We have to look at the greater picture. We need to stop thinking small and start thinking big. There are societal structures that could be really improved on to make our environment a better place. It also has to start in the family, the basic unit of society. We need to start being more compassionate. We can’t assume that everyone is strong enough to take it all in. We need to start putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes before we do anything that could potentially emotionally hurt them. We need to start seeing others as humans, not as rocks void of feelings.

All in all, Tease was a hard book for me to read, and even harder to review. So many thoughts are running through my head, both positive and negative, and I’m unsure if I was able to put them across in this review. But I always appreciate it if a book can push me to think critically and philosophize. Difficult this book may seem to read, it definitely opened my eyes to a very bitter and sad reality. I’ll conclude this review with this:

Rating Report
Overall: 4.6
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A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena


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    • FayeFaye says

      It really is rare. Most of the books I’ve read have been mindless entertainment, the kinds that don’t really speak out to you in the real world. I mean, it’s not like I don’t mind that, an escape is fine every once in a while, but I think it would be better if many have values and questions we could apply and ask in real life.

    • FayeFaye says

      Yup, we always get perspectives form the victims, and I get that. I understand why. They are easier to relate to, but this one is a very bold move. But it’s a great thing to tackle on as long as it’s done right. Besides, not all characters in books have to be likeable… there are so many people from all walks of life in this world we live in ,we need to see how it is from their perspectives, too. We have to try to understand and then teach.

  1. says

    I’m usually one who runs towards books with tough issues but this time I think that part of me run away from this one. I mean I have read books about bullying and in some of them bullied people killed them selves, but I have never read any book where I can see bully’s pov as well. I’m afraid of it. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and I think I’ll read this one soon. Great review, Faye! :)
    Tanja recently posted…Cover Reveal: The Night House by Rachel TafoyaMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      I’m glad to know that, Tanja! It definitely is something else in that respect, and I understand if people would want to run away from this. I seriously appreciate it that you’re willing to give it a try.

    • FayeFaye says

      Thank you, Janina. Such controversial POVs are far and few between, especially for a sensitive subject such as this one.

  2. says

    Okay this one sounds very uhm well twisted!—haha!
    Sorry i feel proud of myself for that lame joke. It’s friday let me off easy!
    Anyways, I feel like this one is a pretty differnt read, a book told from a bully’s pov? How can i get invested in that? I don’t know but i kind of want to get it a shot now!
    Great review
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog
    lily recently posted…Reading Reviews Before the Books Come OutMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Yeah, it will definitely make you uncomfortable, but I read on because it was interesting and I wanted to see if she will have any remorse for what she has done. thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. says

    Wow…this sounds really powerful. I just, yeah, I’m totally unsure of whether I want to try this one. Bullying in school feels so incredibly pointless to me and it definitely bugs the heck out of me. I think, if I stumbled across Tease, I’d try it, but at the moment, the whole thing is making me feel too sad. I do think it sounds like and incredibly unique book though and well written, too?! Amazing!
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    • FayeFaye says

      It’s okay, Cait, I understand your hesitance! I hesitated, too, and only decided to go for it when I read Jenni’s review at xpresso reads. It’s definitely sad to think about, considering the fact its subject matter is in our midst, and it’s happening to many teenagers and children today.

  4. says

    I have read a review from Jenni (Xpresso Reads) that made me want to read this book. After reading your review I know I must read it but that it’s also gonna be one hell of a tough book to read!
    Mob mentality and better others than me can be justifications for joining in the bullying, but why does the mob mentality don’t catch up on the kindness route, I wonder?
    Fantastic review, Faye!
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    • FayeFaye says

      Yeah :( I think some sort of emotional and mental preparation is needed beforehand, especially if you’re the non-confrontational type. It can get pretty shocking in the first few pages, and those you find there won’t even be the worst of it.

    • FayeFaye says

      Definitely worth it, in my opinion. But yes, it’s tough to read, and I would’t blame you if you DNFed it! Not for everyone >.<

  5. says

    Well, I guess we sort of already talked about it on Twitter, but I completely agree with this review! Reading from the point of view of the “villain” was really quite confronting, but confronting in the most awesome of ways.
    So glad someone else feels the same way about this book as I do! :)
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    • FayeFaye says

      I agree! She was thoroughly and utterly unlikeable, but it was a good read nonetheless. Makes you really think that perhaps it’s not as black and white as it seems, and that the society as well as the social structure of our community has its own faults as well.

  6. says

    I’m glad that you enjoyed this one, Faye. I totally agree with you, this one was a huge eye-opener and I really appreciate the author for making a brave step. I didn’t love the main character, but it was interesting to get the story from a bully’s point of view. And I’m pretty sure it was realistic take as well.

    Lovely review, girl! <33
    Melanie (YA Midnight Reads) recently posted…Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Same! I appreciated it was a heroine that was unlikeable. I’m glad I trudged on despite my initial apprehensions. there’s something to look forward to here!

  7. says

    Interesting to read, since I DNF this book very early. I guess it was too much of a confrontation, but I just couldn’t deal with her acting like a victim. The slut shaming aside, I hated the MC and I couldn’t handle it. It’s good to see that there were at least some reasons why Sarah handled like that, but it wasn’t a book for me. I’m glad it worked for you in the end :)
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    • FayeFaye says

      I understand that it was a DNF for you, Mel! It’s really disturbing and confronting. I hated the MC as well. It still was an eye-opener though despite my wariness!

  8. says

    I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews for this one, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to read it. It sounds intriguing being from a bully’s perspective and all, but, on the other hand, I feel it might hit a little too close to home…? After reading your review though, I think I’m definitely going to give it a try! I think I’ll request it and try a chapter or two and see where it goes from there. It sounds like the kind of read where if you really “click” with it, it will be great, but if you don’t really click with it, you might get really annoyed with it.

    Glad you liked it overall Faye, and, as always, brilliant review! <3 It's always great to find a book you really love!
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    • FayeFaye says

      It may definitely hit close to home those who’ve been bullied. Maybe even trigger a few unpleasant memories here and there. Plus, the slut=shaming and victim-shaming here is so… rampant… that it may even raise a few eyebrows. This book doesn’t try to demean it, though. These are unlikeable characters, and we’re not supposed to sympathize with them, but we are, I believe, to learn the situation here to see the greater picture.

      Hope you like it, Zoe!

  9. says

    This book is definitely on my radar Faye and that’s why I only skimmed your review BUT the little bit that I did read…GAH!!! I’m not sure that I can handle it but I kinda want to at the same time. That’s such a tough topic for me to read but based on your high rating and the fact you were able to finish it despite it being too much…say a lot! ;)
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    • FayeFaye says

      Thanks, Cristina! I hope you give it a chance. It’s not an easy read, but I think everyone can learn a thing or two from here, or if not, at least re-emphasize those teachings and urges for action.

  10. says

    I enjoy watching Dexter so much because we get to be inside the mind of a serial killer, so this book might give me that same feeling. Sometimes, we have to be on the other side to understand what’s going on. Anyway, I’d probably feel frustrated with the slut shaming, but I would like to give this book a try. Brilliant review, Faye!
    Dre @ Sporadic Reads recently posted…The Weekly Roundup #007 : Reading Slump Within A Mischievous KissMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      I agree, Dre, in order to fully understand a perspective, we need to become that person and see how it is in their eyes, and then come up with solutions on how to improve things. I really hope you do give this a try, Dre! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. says

    Awesome review, love that this one had some depth, but sounds really in your face and I can imagine readers might find it confronting. Couldn’t agree more about what teens especially face socially, I think a lot really has to do with the introduction of social media. When I was at school, there wasn’t a Facebook or Twitter and most homes didn’t have an internet connection back then either. Bullying has always been a part of teen life in one form or another, but now with social media, kids just don’t seem to have a filter anymore.
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    • FayeFaye says

      I know :( Social Media has been convenient so far, for many things like dispersing information, getting in touch with friends, finding lost loved ones, etc. etc. but it has also amplified bullying so much. Maybe cyberbullying is even worse, because they can affect you even if they’re not physically there.

  12. says

    Oh, Faye. You are a much braver and determined soul than I am. The very idea of reading a book from the bully’s perspective is just . . . horrific. *shudders* I could not do it. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure what purpose a book like this serves. The kind of people who are going to read it (you, and people like you), are not the kind of people who would engage in this type of behavior. They’re the kind of people that already find bullying reprehensible. And a bully certainly isn’t going to pick up this book, read it, and be changed forever afterward. Maybe it’s only goal is to accomplish what it did for you–make you more socially aware. But for me personally . . . I hear enough about this kind of thing on the news, am disgusted by it, and have no desire to immerse myself in the morally-bankrupt, no accountability mindset that breeds such despicable behavior. I would go straight past the desire to wash off the ick to sick to my stomach. SO much respect for your fortitude ;)
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    • FayeFaye says

      I know what you mean, Jessica! It took a lot of willpower to plow through this one, but I’m glad I did. What you say may probably be true :( Bullies won’t read this, won’t even be changed by it, but people like me who have the capability to make a difference will hopefully be pushed even more by this book to put our thoughts into actions.

      Thank you for this lovely comment, Jessica. I love you <3

  13. says

    I have never read a book from the Bully’s perspective before, so on the one hand this might be an interesting read for me. On the other, I don’t know if I would just get angry and put the book down. I would get angry at the fact that people think like that.

    To be honest I may pick this up out of pure curiosity. Even though you had so many thoughts on it, positive and negative, it seems like you still really enjoyed it!

    Thanks for sharing and have a great weekedn hun! :) xx

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries
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    • FayeFaye says

      Yeah, it wasn’t a pleasant read at all, but it was very… enlightening? Like you realize certain epiphanies that you were unsure before, like this one solidified some things. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. says

    I’m quite intrigued by this one. Mel loved it! But it appears others haven’t. I suppose it would have to depend on how much a person can look over the atrocity of slut shaming and such and view this book as what it is: a dark look at the inner workings of a bully’s mind. It seems like Tease was a great example of that, and with the quotes in this review it looks like a sadly realistic take of what a lot of bullies believe.

    Great review! (:
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    • FayeFaye says

      I agree! It definitely isn’t for everyone, especially those who believe they have to like the main character in order to like the book. Sometimes we need unlikeable characters to understand certain people in our society. Why do bullies say this? Why do bullies do that? Why is there even bullying in the first place? If we want to know this, we need to explore the thoughts of the bully, however hard it is to read from their perspective!

  15. says

    Yesyesyes to the Macklemore tweet! Wonderful review Faye, I’m not a huge reading of bullying books because they drain me so much. Personally I’ve been through the experience, but thankfully it was only during the beginning of primary school so it’s easy to forgive when they’re young and they did learn from their mistakes. I think this is truly a brave book to write, because the author is gambling with their audience. No one wants to be reading about a MC that finds no remorse in her actions, but it’s pretty eye-opening when you delve deeper into her head. Sometimes these actions are a product of her upbringing (like you said), and because of this neglect from her parents, her need to fit in and be loved is sought through other means. Sara is obviously finding this need fulfilled by means of her friendship with Brielle, and knows the only way to remain friends is to do everything Brielle does. It’s truly sad to see how there are reasons behind the perpetrator’s actions, although it’ll NEVER really excuse them completely.
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    • FayeFaye says

      Yes, it will never excuse them completely. But if we want to eradicate such horrible things, we need to get to the root cause, and I think this is what Tease wants to give across, however subtly. Thank you for this deep comment, Joy! <3

    • FayeFaye says

      If you’re the type of person who believes you have the like the main character, this probably won’t work for you. The MC is extremely unlikeable, but I don’t think we were meant to like her at all. I hope you enjoy it!

  16. says

    I imagine that this book is something else entirely indeed. I love the premise in the sense that it’s the other perspective and it’s a story that needs to be told no matter who the narrator is. Agreed. Not everythng is black or white, but bullying is never right. I’m glad to see that you enjoyed this so much and I love the points you made in your review, Faye! :)
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    • FayeFaye says

      No matter the reasons for being who she is, be it peer pressure or absence parents, that doesn’t excuse her actions at all, that I agree. In the end, the conscious decision to be kind or to be mean is up to us. But I think for prevention of such cases from happening again, we really need to look at the greater picture. Bullying will NOT stop from stopping one bully at a time. I think it can only be stopped if we change the factors and environments that make them like this. That’s what I think anyway, haha!

    • FayeFaye says

      I have never been bullied before, but I have read hundreds of news and “stories” from victims, and I agree that it was realistic in its portrayal. The emergence of social medias like facebook and twitter was touched here as well, and you could really see how making fake profiles can ruin a person just as much as physically and verbally abusing them in real life.

      Thanks, Jen!!

  17. says

    This was really hard book for me to read – I didn’t know what to think about MC, I was confused and I didn’t like any of the characters. But I think that kind of was the point of this story – not to give you a character you’d relate to, author confronts you with everything that is wrong with our society.
    I love your review, Faye.
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    • FayeFaye says

      Definitely the point. Sara was full of flaws, most of them deplorable, but it is characters like her that push you into thinking what else is wrong in our society and culture as a whole that stuff like bullying, victim-shaming, and slut-shaming run rampant.

      Thank you, Glass!

    • FayeFaye says

      Yup, it’s intense in a very confrontational way. Some people may be uncomfortable with it, but it’s worth sticking to the end. Thank you very much!

  18. says

    I think I’ve replied to you on GR about your review of this but man, reading this review again just makes me want to read this book, but I really don’t think I can do it. I would probably want to strangle the main character for her selfishness, narrow mindedness and stupidity. But I can see how different this book is and I also had a relationship with a book that I hated it so much because of the characters but ended up loving it so I can see why you ended up loving this. Maybe I can read it one day… I just have to be prepared for the worst main character ever. Great review! :)
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