Merry Wanderer of the Night + YA

Review: Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman makes me feel, like Whoa!

Abby is 14 and about to start high school. Middle school wasn't that great (her and her best friend, Faith were picked on by the super popular crowd) and Abby doesn't really see anything to look forward to. She doesn't really like change, and is incredibly nervous about starting high school. It doesn't help that on the first day of school she realizes that she and Faith, who have been inseparable since 2nd grade only have gym together and her parents seem to think that's a 'positive' change. They want her to meet new people, make new friends but all she wants is to stay friends with Faith and keep everything the same as it's always been. It gets even worse when Faith starts making new friends and the only person Abby seems to meet is a super hot guy who can't even remember her name while he copies her math homework.

Abby doesn't really feel like she has a place. She's under a lot of pressure from her parents to be perfect, get straight As and live up to their expectations. She doesn't feel like they understand her, and she feels like they treat her differently than her younger sister, who she fights with constantly. Her best friend is pulling away from her, putting her time into new attachments and Abby desperately needs to feel loved, appreciated and wanted.

And then she meets Luke in a new cyber hang out geared for teens. Luke is wonderful. He understands Abby, sympathizes with her, tells her that he understands things are hard and he tells her she is beautiful. It's what she needs to hear, so she begins to let Luke consume her life. She spends all her time online or wishing she were online. And then, after a huge fight with her parents, Abby accepts Luke's offer to finally meet in real life. And then she disappears

This book hurts you in every way there is to hurt. Abby is really struggling to find her place right now and she's feeling inadequate in almost every area of her life. This makes her highly vulnerable to an internet predator. My heart hurt for Abby so many times in this story. She's really hurting and doesn't feel like anyone is willing to stop and listen to her, until she meets Luke. She has so much that she keeps locked inside and it's painful to read. And then there are things that will turn your stomach. Reading about this guy preying on such a young girl made me ill. And, it made me desire to do violence. I believe the people who prey upon and abuse children are the lowest of the low. And I cried while reading this book. There is so much pain felt by so many different characters and it just really hit me. I can't even imagine how devastating something like this would be in real life and I just ached.

The only thing I'm not sure I believed about this book was how quickly Luke was able to get Abby to do things horribly outside the levels of what is appropriate. He tells her in their first chat that he is already out of high school, and by the third he asks her bra size and follows that up by telling her he is 27 to her 14. I know that they had already chatted previously, but given how much she apparently knew about internet safety and how smart she was, I don't feel like there was enough build up there at this point for Abby to continue talking once she realized he was twice her age. And then, when he starts getting her to do more and more, (topless picture, webcam etc) I don't feel like there was enough resistance on Abby's part. Some of the things he asked her to do should have been met with at least a token resistance, but other than moving slowly and blushing, Abby never even says no. I think she would have been easily talked in to those situations, but I feel like it should have taken a little... more from Luke first.

Littman does attempt to justify this a little. Abby justifies a lot of her decisions, especially in the beginning, with the knowledge that nothing is going to happen — she's never going to actually meet the guy, so it's not really that bad. Which, as Abby can later attest, is very dangerous thinking.

But even so, I think that this is a very important book for kids to be reading, especially for kids around Abby's age. It is a time of great change and adjustment for teens and most teens feel very vulnerable. Internet predators are talented manipulators who study ways to reel teens in and exploit them. This book is important because so many teens have this idea or attitude of, Well that only happens to other people, that would never happen to me. And it's not true. If you refuse to acknowledge that there might be a risk, you put yourself at greater risk. Teens need to read this book. It's hard and it would definitely be a book that would be good to have a parent read with the teens so that they can talk about what happens in the story and how to protect yourself. It's a powerful book, I tell you what.

There is so much else that I could mention about this book. So many places I could have gone with this review. Because the book is just that good. It is amazing, powerful, intense, heartbreaking and so very important.

*Disclaimer — I received and ARC of this from the publisher in exchange for a fair and un

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Review: Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman + YA