Want to Go Private? is a new YA contemporary novel from Life, After author Sarah Darer Littman. If you didn't get a chance to read my review of Life, After yet, read it here.
Fourteen-year-old Abby doesn't like change. It's a first year of high school and already she's getting persuaded to try a little make-up and "make an effort", when all that just makes her feel uncomfortable and weird. Plus, her best friend Faith is only in one of her classes - PE! Her parents encourage her to try and make some new friends, but it just isn't working. Even the cute guy in her math class can't ever remember her name, instead calling her an endless slew of different "A" names.
Faith doesn't have the same problem. She is making new friends and getting involved in new activities, and though she invites Abby along, Abby feels unbearably lonely. That's why when she meets Luke online, she's so relieved to have someone to talk to every night. Someone who understands what she's going through and listens. He's funny and nice - plus he thinks she's pretty, which she can't help but admit is awesome.
Chatting with Luke after school becomes her rock, giving her a sense of stability that she doesn't sense with Faith anymore. She starts to realize that she's getting over the whole high school thing. Luke thinks she's cool - and he's older, smarter, and more mature. Sure, Abby doesn't love that her usually stellar grades are slipping and sometimes she feels guilty saying no to Faith's invites so that she can make sure and be home to chat with Luke - but does any of that matter when it comes to love?
Because Luke has said it. That he loves her. And she's sort of convinced she feels the same. He's the only thing holding her up as high school and life is pulling her down. He's no longer a Internet "stranger". So when he suggests they meet in person - she says yes.
And then she's gone.
I absolutely loved Life, After, so I was (of course) interested in reading more from Sarah Darer Littman. And yet again she blew me away. Abby is relatable in her fear of change - the anguish of it, the rawness of that feeling of losing your longtime best friend. So even when I was frustrated with her lack of common sense as she befriended Luke online, I could understand her need for that acceptance and flattery.
There is a horrible danger in Abby's vulnerability and a creeping sense of suspense in Want to Go Private? that made me sick in the pit of my stomach. Abby's increased reliance of Luke's pep talks and flirting is scarily realistic, disturbing, and decidedly creepy.
Want to Go Private? is not a pleasure read. It's not fun. It's discomfiting, nerve-jangling, jarring, and oh-so-effective. It lingered in my mind days after and continued to disturb me. Sarah Darer Littman doesn't hesitate to show the worst parts of being a victim of a Internet predator - nor does she shy away from the mental horror that follows it. My heart ached for Abby - oh, how I wanted to reach in the book and help her!
After things escalate and Abby meets up with Luke, the point of view changes to her friends and family and how they deal with her sudden disappearance. It becomes a search and rescue kind of thing, but with an emotional honesty that is hard to read - yet so wonderfully done.
Want to Go Private? is harrowing, horrifying, and heartbreaking. It's an unfortunately all-too-real, powerful look at how easily young teens can get sucked into a nightmare. It's a story that should teach and inspire. Hopefully it will keep a lot of kids from becoming a victim.
Like I said earlier, it's not fun to read. But it is phenomenally done. Sarah Darer Littman astounds me. Wow.
Here we are in the last week of August (God-bye, summer! Hello autumn!) and I just want to give all of you awesome readers a head's up: the Bibliophile Support Group will be back to only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday reviews starting on September 6th. This will continue for the foreseeable future. Still a ton of books to read and talk about - but let's give ourselves a bit more time to talk about each one! I encourage you all to comment and read as often as you can - this blog is here for us all to support each other in what is, in the end, quite an addictive lifestyle after all! ;)