by Sarah Bannan
To be published on June 30, 2015
by St Martin's Press
Source: finished copy from publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: When 15-year-old Carolyn moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the junior class at Adams High School. A good student and natural athlete, she’s immediately welcomed by the school’s cliques. She’s even nominated to the homecoming court and begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a video of Carolyn and Shane making out is sent to everyone, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut, as Brooke and her best friend Gemma try to restore their popularity. Gossip and bullying hound Carolyn, who becomes increasingly private and isolated. When Shane and Brooke—now back together—confront Carolyn in the student parking lot, injuring her, it’s the last attack she can take.My take: Weightless tells a story that you've probably heard before, in YA books like Tease or media stories about girls like Phoebe Prince: new girl moves to a small town and catches the eye of a popular guy, starts dating him, is bullied relentlessly by her classmates, then (highlight for spoiler) starts an emotional and psychological downward spiral, and commits suicide. (end spoiler.) I flipped ahead to the end to see if the ending would be different than what I was expecting, but it wasn't.
Like The Virgin Suicides or Then We Came to the End, Weightless is written in the first person plural (from the point of view of a "we" instead of an "I"). It's an unusual and gutsy choice, and one that readers may either love or find distracting. On the plus side, the "we" POV emphasizes the mob mentality that often accompanies bullying. But while I thought this POV choice was successful from a literary point of view (to me, this is a POV that takes some serious skill to pull off and I think Weightless is very well written) the "we" narration left me feeling somewhat emotionally detached from Carolyn, the bullying victim. Weightless does include some epistolary elements -- emails, school reports, newspaper articles, etc. -- so it does include a few of Carolyn's texts and such -- but I wished for more of her voice. Plus, the contrast between the literary POV and the pop cultural elements was a little jarring to me -- though other readers may disagree.
There have been a lot of YA bullying books in the last decade, from Speak to Thirteen Reasons Why to Some Girls Are. I've found all of them hard to read (as they should be) and some have definitely touched me emotionally more than this one did. That said, I do think Weightless was well-crafted and definitely worth a try for YA readers who are looking for this kind of a story.
I'll be giving away a finished copy this Friday, so if you're interested in trying this, be sure to stop by!