I Swear

I Swear

4.0 18
by Lane Davis

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Who’s to blame when bullying leads to suicide? This “riveting read on an important topic” (Kirkus Reviews) seeks answers in and out of the courtroom.

After years of abuse from her classmates, and thinking she had no other options, Leslie took her own life. Now her abusers are dealing with the fallout. In the eyes of theSee more details below

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Who’s to blame when bullying leads to suicide? This “riveting read on an important topic” (Kirkus Reviews) seeks answers in and out of the courtroom.

After years of abuse from her classmates, and thinking she had no other options, Leslie took her own life. Now her abusers are dealing with the fallout. In the eyes of the accused girls, they are not to blame: Leslie chose to take her life. She chose to be the coward they always knew she was.

As criminal proceedings examine the systematic cyber bullying and harassment that occurred, the girls vow to keep their stories straight and make Leslie seem weak. But as the events leading up to her death unfold, it becomes clear that although Leslie took her own life, her bullies took everything else.

Told in alternating perspectives and through well-paced flashbacks, this timely novel is filled with “sharp dialogue, absorbing deposition scenes, blackmail, and complex characterizations” (Publishers Weekly) and sheds light on both the victims of bullying and the consequences bullies face.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—This engrossing and timely story begins as Leslie Gatlin makes the decision to end her own life. The rest of the novel is told in alternating points of view by the students who played a part in her decision to commit suicide. This intense snapshot of cyberbullying includes the stereotypical queen bee and her minions, who continually send Leslie messages telling her to kill herself and perpetuate vicious rumors insinuating that she is a slut, has had plastic surgery, and a variety of other hurtful comments. Davis does a passable job of presenting the different voices as the teens' part in Leslie's bullying is unveiled, although she does occasionally include expressions not heard in the halls of a typical high school. He makes up for these small inconsistencies in his characterization of Jake, her one friend, and the fast-paced storytelling that keeps unraveling layers to the mystery surrounding why each person chose to harass Leslie. Without becoming too didactic or unrealistic, the conclusion clearly spells out the message that teenagers should think before they speak or post something. While this offering is not as emotionally powerful as Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why (Penguin, 2007), it certainly deserves its place on library shelves.—Tammy Turner, Centennial High School, Frisco, TX
Publishers Weekly
Davis debuts with a gripping mystery that takes place during the aftermath of the suicide of a bullied high school student named Leslie. Popular, cruel, and manipulative Macie targeted Leslie because Jake picked Leslie instead of her. Jake, who agonized over why Leslie kept him at a distance, now believes that Macie drove Leslie to take her own life. Other players include new girl Katherine; Beth, a gymnast with a big secret; hipster Krista; and Jillian, Jake's insecure younger sister—all of whom continue to be manipulated by Macie after Leslie's death. Tension mounts when Leslie's parents initiate a wrongful death suit and characters are subpoenaed. Alternating between multiple points of view, Davis's first-person narratives skillfully flip between past and present, portraying the events that led to Leslie's demise with impeccably plotted details and shifting emotions and alliances. Sharp dialogue, absorbing deposition scenes, blackmail, and complex characterizations will have readers racing through this sensitive and lyrically written drama that affirms, "you're only as sick as your secrets." Ages 14–up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Debbie Kirchhoff
What happens next? How does the story end? In a suicide novel we already know the answers to these questions, so how can a suicide novel be a real page-turner? The answer in I Swear is in the speculation on the characters and events which caused main character, Leslie, to finally lose all hope and take her life. This is a book about bullying told from the perspective of the bullies, or at least, most of them. The one person, Macie, who is the main instigator of the bullying, whose actions are the most indefensible does not tell her story because hers is a simple tale of jealousy with no conscience to restrain it. The hopelessness of suicide makes it difficult to recommend these books to teens, although the stories are so popular. The popularity may be explained by the idea that the alienation the character feels reads like a form of dystopia and like the best dystopian novels, the ending of this book is not perfect, but it is satisfying. Leslie's former friends all have reasons for joining in the terroristic bullying. Teens will be able to sympathize with them in the same way the characters are eventually able to sympathize with each other which leads them finally to support each other . They shared in the fear of Macie's wrath and they share in the freedom when their secrets are revealed. And, they share in the realization that life does go on and get better. Reviewer: Debbie Kirchhoff
Children's Literature - Kristi Bernard
High school is supposed to be fun. Students can connect with social groups and behave like normal teens, whatever that may entail. But there are also teens who are caught in the traps of a bully. Leslie Gatlin was just such a teen. The pressure and hate she endured put her in a position to leave town, but ultimately she made the decision to take her own life. Who is to blame? Shouldn’t someone pay for all of the abuse? Her parents thought so. Readers will follow along as Leslie’s story unfolds. Jake, the promising school jock, was in love with Leslie but she felt compelled to reject him because of the verbal abuse and punishment she received from Macie Merrick. Macie is the typical spoiled little rich girl and daughter of a well-known politician with a lot of local power. Macie was smart. She had her followers do all of her dirty work. They were Katherine, the beauty queen, Beth the lesbian gymnast and Krista the retro geek. All had been friends with Leslie at one point in time and all had severed their ties with her to save themselves from the wrath of Macie. When Leslie’s parents bring charges against this motley crew and the depositions begin, who will finally stand up and tell the truth for Leslie? Davis has created a tale that twists and turns. Right when you think you have figured it out, you find that you have not. This fast-paced read will have readers chomping at the bit. Some adult language can be found here. Well written, vivid imagery brings the characters to life and has the reader standing by to see what happens next. Reviewer: Kristi Bernard; Ages 12 up.
Kirkus Reviews
After persistent bullying leads to a high school senior's suicide, her tormentors examine their behavior and culpability. This searing page turner explores the psyches and actions of a group of high school students whose merciless cruelty--and the group is shockingly vicious--drives fellow classmate Leslie Gatlin to commit suicide. What makes the rolling narration told from diverse points of view suspenseful is that Leslie's parents commence a civil lawsuit, and the district attorney gets interested as well. Suddenly the bullies, who have secrets to protect and varying motivations for their behavior, are in the hot seat. Macie Merrick is the manipulative, Machiavellian queen of the bullies, and her character, though over-the-top demonic, is great fun to hate. Author Davis makes it clear that suicide was the victim's choice--the theme of choice is central to the novel--and by the end of the story, readers understand that all the bullies, with the exception of the evil Macie, will now make better choices. Still, the damage is irreversible, and no amount of remorse or future compassion can negate the past, something at least one of the bullies must come to terms with. A riveting read on an important topic. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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2 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

I Swear


When I got back to my room with the Diet Cokes, Macie was finishing the Facebook message to Leslie. As I set the cans down on the desk, she looked up at me with a quick smirk, then back at the screen. A satisfied smile slowly spread across her face. Then she flipped a long strand of honey-blond hair over her shoulder.

“Straight-A Jillian, your proofreading skills are now required. Nothing is worse than a typo in a suicide note.”

“Totally.” Krista giggled. “That would really make you want to kill yourself.” She and Beth dissolved into laughter on the floor. I gingerly stepped over Katherine to sit down at the computer as Macie slid away and popped open a Diet.

The words on the screen were typed into a Facebook message. It read:


1. Apologize for all the terrible sweaters you wore.

2. A brief rundown of how bad you were at volleyball.

3. How much it hurt that your daddy was never home enough.

4. Tell everyone how sorry you are that you won’t be at prom this year, so someone else will have to be “worst dressed.”

5. A thank-you to all your best girlfriends, who were so nice to you. (Oh. Wait. There weren’t any because you were a slut who stole people’s boyfriends.)

6. Who you’re leaving all your craptastic earrings to.

7. How sad you were that your boobs never grew in.

8. A line from one of those stupid country songs you listened to.

9. Why we shouldn’t be sad now that you’re gone. (Not that we would be.)

10. Tell Jake how you’re doing this for him so that he won’t have ugly babies.

“Is ‘craptastic’ a word?” I asked.

“Oh, who cares? It’s not like she’s clever enough to use a word like that in a book report, let alone a suicide note.” Macie was very pleased with herself. I could tell that this week at school would be easier. She’d been begging for a sleepover since last Monday. Finally, I’d invented a chemistry exam that required a study group so my mom would buy into a Sunday-night slumber party. Now if we could just get this message sent before Jake got home, we’d be set.

“Looks good,” I said. “Our weekly missive appears to be ready.”

“Oh, Beeeeeth . . . ,” trilled Macie. It was a silly tradition that we’d established. Macie typed, I proofread, Beth pressed send every week.

“Ta-da!” squealed Beth, the tiny gymnast in our midst, who jumped in a single fluid motion from the floor to the chair at the computer desk, somehow joining me on a seat I didn’t realize had room for the both of us.

She clicked.

She clapped.

And as she turned around, the door to my room swung open with such force that it bounced against the wall and knocked the lamp off my dresser. Krista screamed as the bulb flashed purple and burned out. Suddenly, all six feet, two inches of my twin brother, Jake, were standing in the doorway.

“Where did you get this?” he asked. His voice was so still, no one dared to breathe. There was no air left in the room.

I tried to act nonchalant. I squinted at the silver chain dangling from his fist as if I couldn’t quite make out what he was holding, as if I didn’t know.

But I knew. We all did. And Jake’s knuckles were white.

Katherine was typically the quiet one, but she must’ve noticed me flinch under Jake’s gaze, because she was the only one to jump in.

“What is that?” she asked, sitting up on the knees of her plaid pajama pants and reaching for the anchor dangling from the chain in Jake’s hand.

Without moving his eyes from mine, he pulled the chain out of her reach as a cloud crossed his clear blue eyes.

“Jills, you know exactly what it is,” he said.

The short sleeve of Jake’s green polo strained against the biceps of his right arm as he gripped the necklace. The pendant trembled on the chain from the tension in his hand. His whole body was on a slow boil.

“Dang, Jake.” Macie whistled. “You’re so sexy when you’re angry.”

For one moment, Jake’s eyes left me and fixed on Macie in a look of such contempt that even Macie withered backward from the heat.

“Don’t ever speak to me again,” he spat at her so slowly it felt like the words were separate explosions from an armful of hand grenades he’d lobbed into each corner of the room. “I want you out of my life.”

Then he turned on his heel and headed back down the hall.

I’ll never forget how we sat there in silence for what seemed like an eternity as we listened to the front door slam, then the car door, then heard Jake squeal away from the curb. I didn’t realize it then, but that was the moment it all began—or it all ended, depending on your point of view, I suppose. In the span of time between his tires peeling out and Krista’s next giggle, I sat in the eerie quiet and understood two things:

I didn’t know exactly how we’d gotten here.

But I knew exactly where Jake was going.

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