Monday, June 8, 2015

Review: Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Firstly, thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: June 1-7 2015
Date Released: April 1st 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"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.

Sarah Bannan's deft use of the first person plural gives Weightless an emotional intensity and remarkable power that will send you flying through the pages and leave you reeling."


I am seriously conflicted about this book. Bullying is never an issue that can be tackled easily. It’s not easy to write about and it changes depending on the perspective.

Carolyn Lessing moves from New Jersey to this small, out of the way town, called Adamsville in Alabama. She’s beautiful, athletic, is immediately on the Honour Roll, and also a nice person. She's different. What amazed and disgusted me was how quickly she was talked about – the gossip that immediately spread behind her back based on speculation was horrifying. People loving and hating her at the same time based on simply what they’d heard not what they knew. The slut-shaming, accusations and lies were magnified a hundred times through the student population, who will I henceforth call, the sheep.

The interesting and also disorienting aspect of this book is the perspective from which it’s told. The voice has no name, and I wasn’t even sure if it was one particular person. The story uses the pronoun “we” and never “I”. The reader is able to ascertain that the voice narrating is a female, she’s on the swim team, presumably smart and hangs out with a group of girls comprised of Nicole, Lauren and Jessica – all of whom are on the swim team. Whether the narrator is one of these 3 girls I could never tell. I thought the author’s use of the “we” rather than “I” was really smart, intentional (obviously) but it also really annoyed me. By using “we”, it’s collectively saying the bullying was done/observed by a group of individuals, not ever an individual alone. It’s smart because yes, it only takes one person to bully, but the force of this “we”, this collective, is what really blew everything out of proportion. It annoys me because by doing this, no one person is able to take the blame. It distributes the blame and gives the narrator a way out. If told from the perspective of “I”, she could have said her one voice wouldn’t have mattered but also she could have done the responsible thing and told someone about the bullying. By using “we”, there is never any accountability. “We” could have/should have/might have – NO, there is only what is: that this group of girls who were always observing never had the guts to do anything because they were sheep that followed everybody else.

And my god what a herd of sheep these people are. I wanted to tear my hair out reading about these superficial, materialistic, bitchy sheep that were always trying to get in with the popular girls. They went wherever the popular girls (Taylor, Tiffany, Brooke and Gemma) went. Did whatever they did, wore what they wore, spread rumours for them. Honestly, it was bad enough when the bullying was initiated by the bullies, but without the sheep following and spreading the rumours, things wouldn’t have gotten out of hand.

One of the accurate points of this novel was the use of religion to show the hypocrisy of the people. Everybody attends the same Baptist church, they pray for everything, especially their football games. But no amount of preaching, praying or believing could change these girls. I loved the irony of these people posting Facebook statuses with quotes from the Bible and then partaking in activities they’d just preached were sinful. These popular girls were honestly the definition of sin with their language, their hateful personalities, the way they treated others and the things they did.

But the most horrifying part of this novel was how ignorant the town’s adults were. Every single one of the adults turned a blind eye. The bloody school principal who was obsessed with winning football games, the parents doing god knows what, and the TEACHERS who saw everything and turned a blind eye. That part killed me the most.

Everything just builds up in this quiet town and it’s all extremely fucked up. Every single one of these people are to blame for the bullying. Those that started it, those that helped spread the rumours, those that stood by and did nothing, those that pretend to not see.

I’m not sure how realistic Weightless is in portraying bullying because while I’ve been bullied before and know of the real-life stories, I’ve never seen it to this scale. Because I want to believe that in reality, there would be someone who would speak up, provide support, that they wouldn’t let a whole town just get away with something so disgusting.

Overall, Weightless is a scarily addictive story of bullying at a disturbing scale. It’s a suspenseful, mysterious and haunting account of the consequences of bullying, and the impact of the masses.

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