First, I just want to say that I actually was bullied in high school. My bullying was just as intense as Emma's was and like Emma's, it occurred online and offline. The idea of writing from the bully's POV is not exactly novel and I think far too often it comes across as apologist. What I liked about TEASE is that it's pretty clear (well, to everyone except our MC Sara) that what the "heroine" did was wrong. Is she a total cackling villain of a girl? No, but most bullies aren't. There were shades of nuance to her life and being around her meaner friends made her a much worse person. I think that's probably true. It was the case with my own bullies: one of them was much meaner than the other and the less mean one eventually wrote me a (very nice) apology letter years later saying she was sorry for what she did.
The premise of TEASE is simple and complicated all at once. Emma has taken her own life after months of continuous bullying and now the parents are taking the kids involved to court. There are two timelines. One is in the present day, with the approaching court date. The other is in the past, building up to the inciting event. Emma is a pretty girl who hooks up with a lot of boys-- allegedly. There's definitely some unreliable narrator business going on and it's not exactly clear whether some of these boys are just friends who aren't discrediting the salacious rumors, or, you know, the opposite. Sara and Brielle hate Emma straight out of the gate, but when Emma starts getting close to Sara's boyfriend, Dylan, things start getting really bad. Sara, an insecure mess, can't stand the idea of this pretty girl with the bad reputation hanging out with her man. So she starts to make Sara's life a living hell.
This is paced like a thriller, even though it isn't. The characters all behave like real teens and they talk like real teens and they make bad decisions like real teens. Once I got into the book, I read through it in a single day. Even though I didn't like her as a person, I loved how the heroine of the story was a true morally ambiguous character and I liked how complex the author made her as a person. I think that's part of the reason the reviews for this book are pretty low. Most people want a character they can feel comfortable rooting for and Sara, who is the literal villain in her own story, is anything but that.
If you like YA with mature themes that deep-dives into serious issues, I think you'll really like TEASE. The hilarious blurb for this book on Goodreads says, " If you gulped through reading or streaming 13 Reasons Why, Tease is the book for you." What does "if I GULPED" mean? Like, if I swallowed nervously? I actually think that comparison is kind of bad because 13RW is more of a revenge fantasy and the hero of that book is more of a generic nice guy character. TEASE, on the other hand, feels like it's more about exploring serious issues with nuance while also holding people accountable. One is a vigilante story and the other is an analysis of morality and justice. They feel different to me, IDK.
Anyway, this book was awesome and if you can stomach the content, you should read it.
4.5 out of 5 stars