A debut YA novella about cyberbullying by journalist and short-story writer King.
Like many teenagers, Jenna Wilson yearns to be accepted by the popular crowd at her school, Willoughby High in Australia. She naïvely believes that Renee, a friend from her swim team, can help her get to know Tina Scaruffi, Renee’s uber-popular cousin. When Tina and her comrade, Krissy, inexplicably begin paying attention to Jenna, she’s baffled but flattered; she also immediately starts ignoring her own lifelong friend, Alyssa. All the kids at school seem to suddenly notice Jenna, who revels in no longer feeling invisible. An invitation to a party seems like the ultimate sign of acceptance; at that event, she tries to ease her nervousness by accepting the disgusting drinks that Krissy keep pushing on her. The predictably disastrous results are only made worse when Tina and Krissy take revealing photographs of an intoxicated, half-dressed Jenna and post them all over social media. When Jenna finally has the nerve to return to school, she discovers that everyone thinks of her as “Slag Bitch,” and she longs to return to her previous invisibility. As Tina and Krissy’s bullying continues, Jenna thinks about ending the torture the only way she knows how—by drowning herself. Inspired by the real-life story of the late Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, this story puts a human face on cyberbullying, something many teens may have already learned about in school. The novella also includes supplemental lists of resources, study questions, and curriculum tie-ins for Australians. Without being preachy, the story reinforces the importance of seeking assistance, as Jenna is rescued, in more ways than one, by a favorite teacher. King crafts characters with whom readers can relate by showing not just Jenna’s unimaginable pain, but also Alyssa’s pangs of rejection, as well as Jenna’s parents’ indescribable anguish. Although the Australian slang and references may prove difficult for young American readers, the Down Under setting adds an element of cool.
A deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.