Friday, September 30, 2011

Want to go Private?, by Sarah Littleman

Abby is starting her first year of high school, and no one seems to understand why she is less than thrilled about it. No one, that is, except Luke, a boy she begins chatting with on a website aimed at teens. When Abby's best friend Faith starts to pull away from her, she begins confiding in and depending on Luke more and more as her sole source of comfort and support.  The two begin a serious online relationship, despite a huge age difference, and before long, Luke begins to ask Abby to do some questionable things.  Wrapped up in Luke, Abby begins to slip in her classes, which gets her grounded.  She decides to teach her parents a lesson, and runs off to meet Luke, her secret boyfriend.  She has no idea what she is in for.

This book is truly, truly, frightening.  It actually made me a little bit sick to read it, because I know without a doubt these things happen every moment of every day.  When I first moved out on my own, and had no real friends where I was living, I started to try to connect with people online.  It  became very apparent that so many men will prey on vulnerable, lonely women and girls online, targeting those with low self esteem.  I was shocked at the suggestive things many men did and said to me, and I can only imagine the situation is much worse and more manipulative when it involves a child.  So, this book stirred powerful feeling in me, which is a sign that this book is important.

For the reader, it may be easy to see what Luke is doing to Abby, and where this is headed, but it is also easy to see why so many young girls fall into this trap.  Who does not, as a tween or teen, want to be told she is beautiful, sexy, special, loved?  Even adult women fall prey to this, so it is easy to see why Abby, a trusting young girl, could get so caught up.  I am also glad that the book really accurately portrayed how the situation affected the whole family for month afterward.  Often we hear the horror stories, and the seemingly happy endings, but we rarely see the fall out and long term resolution.

I cannot stress enough how good and important this book is.  Yes, it is a delicate matter, and yes, online sexual predators are frightening to think about.  The language in this book, and some of the scenes described,are really difficult to read.  However, this is a young adult book, one I think appropriate.  I would caution parents to either read it before hand to determine their level of comfort with their child reading it, or read it at the same time as their child, and talk about it afterwards.  It is a powerful cautionary tale.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of the Amazon Vine program.

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