Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman. 321 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., April, 2015. 9780545651264. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)
Fragile sophomore, Lara Kelly, attempts suicide after her online crush disses her publicly on Facebook. As if that wasn't hurtful enough, the comments that follow are hateful. Her eighth grade sister, Sydney, angry that Lara's been hogging the bathroom, realizes that it's too quiet in there and calls her mother to break the door down. Lara's ex-best friend and neighbor, Bree films Lara being wheeled on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance and posts the video- which prompts another avalanche of "likes" and comments.
Ah, social media and the immediacy of unbridled, uncensored, unfiltered comments. Add to that the questionable decision-making skills of hormone-addled teens and we've got a new age of bullying. It's now 24/7, not just a fight after school in the parking lot. Even a casual glance at the comments section in most online outlets reveals that cyberbullying is not just a teen-age thing. Adults are jumping in, usually anonymously.
Lara's sophomore year was looking up for her. She successfully lost the weight that earned her such nicknames as Lardo and even made the cheering squad. This was after years of angst and therapy and, according to Syd, the world revolving around Lara. Syd feels guilty over feeling anger at the timing of Lara's suicide attempt, which prevented her from trying out for a coveted part in the school play.
Syd's not the only one tired of Lara's angst. Bree, her former best friend is as well. The story switches points of view between then and now and Lara, Syd, Bree and Bree's brother, Liam. Turns out, Bree created a fake FB page for Christian, Lara's crush. Lara knew she was violating her parents' rule when she friended a boy she didn't know. They had friends in common and he was good-looking and Lara was flattered. She quickly shared details of her life and fell for Christian, who seemed to return her feelings.
I read this in one sitting. While there were a few false notes that threatened to take me out of the story, on a whole, it was timely and utterly compelling - like train wreck compelling. There's a message here, but it's an important one. The author illuminates many of the pitfalls of the dangers of social media as well as the nuances of sibling and best friend relationships. I enjoyed the shifting points of view, especially Sydney's and Liam's.
This book could not have come at a more perfect time. Earlier this week, an eighth grader returned I Swear by Lane Davis. He wanted another just like it so I gave him Butter by Erin Jade Lange. He's plowing through that and told me yesterday, in the hallway that I need to find more books like those two. Phew! Thank you Sarah Darer Littman for writing this at just the right time. And, thanks to Scholastic for the opportunity to review it. I am certain Backlash won't spend much time on the shelf.