When you can?t trust anyone, how can you ever feel safe?
In seventh grade, Maggie Camden was the class outcast. Every day, the other girls tripped her, pinched her, trapped her in the bathroom, told her she would be better off dead. Four years have passed since then, and Maggie?s tormentors seem to have moved on. The ringleader of them all, Raleigh Barringer, even moved ...
When you can’t trust anyone, how can you ever feel safe?
In seventh grade, Maggie Camden was the class outcast. Every day, the other girls tripped her, pinched her, trapped her in the bathroom, told her she would be better off dead. Four years have passed since then, and Maggie’s tormentors seem to have moved on. The ringleader of them all, Raleigh Barringer, even moved out of town. But Maggie has never stopped watching for attacks, and every laugh still sounds like it’s at her expense. The only time Maggie feels at peace is when she’s hiking up in the mountains with her best friend, Nick. Lately, though, there’s a new sort of tension between the two of them—a tension both dangerous and delicious. But how can Maggie expect anything more out of Nick when all she’s ever been told is that she’s ugly, she’s pathetic, she’s unworthy of love? And how can she ever feel safe, now that Raleigh Barringer is suddenly—terrifyingly—back in town?
Although many readers will relate to Maggie Camden’s insecurities, which result from the fact that she was bullied in middle school, some—like Maggie’s best girlfriend Sylvie—may be frustrated by her inability to move on with her life. By age 17, Maggie’s situation has improved considerably. The taunting has stopped, and she has found a niche for herself, hanging out with Sylvie and hiking with Nick, the boy she secretly likes. Still, Maggie feels inadequate (“How could I forget Raleigh’s words about how I make guys gag?”). When her chief tormentor moves back to town, Maggie is overcome by the fear of being targeted again. Her all-consuming worries make her unable to trust friendly overtures from classmates, support Sylvie when her friend needs her most, and become romantically involved with Nick. Hubbard (Try Not to Breathe) persuasively conveys the depth of Maggie’s despair and the lingering pain bullying inflicts, but other elements of the novel come across as artificial. It is never clear why Maggie was victimized to begin with, and her archenemy feels manufactured, as does Maggie’s eventual rebound. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Sept.)
- Diane Colson
In junior high, Maggie was the target of fierce bullying by mean girls and their minions. Each day was a new ordeal filled with pranks and taunts. Now, two years later, Maggie has a different life. Her best friend, Nick, shares Maggie's quirky love for the outdoors, even appreciating her fascination with mushrooms. Maggie has become Nick's ally when his father relentlessly berates him for his lack of academic achievement. Junior high's misery seems to be a thing of the past. Then, the worst of the mean girls, Raleigh, begins attending Maggie's high school, and Maggie's dread of public humiliation returns. Terrible insults from the past haunt Maggie so thoroughly that she retreats back into her painful, lonely self, fraying her emotional connection with Nick. Even when the attacks from Raleigh and her ilk do not manifest, Maggie constantly relives them. This delayed effect of bullying is not generally the focus in novels on the subject, yet it is as important as the original incidents. For Maggie, facing Raleigh is like facing the worst nightmare ever, triggering amplified feelings of shame and worthlessness. So many teens needlessly carry these same emotions, convinced that powerful others can bestow self-respect or self-loathing. The book concludes realistically, with genuinely important insights into recovery from bullying. Recommend this title to readers affected by bullying from peers, as in Maggie's case, or from parents, as with Nick. Reviewer: Diane Colson
School Library Journal
Gr 8–11—In junior high, Maggie Camden was subjected to bullying-vicious taunts that continue to haunt her four years later. Raleigh Barringer, who tormented her, moved away, but as the novel opens, Raleigh returns, stoking Maggie's memories of the harassment. Although Raleigh appears to ignore her now that they're in high school, Maggie can't seem to shake her dread. It's a little hard to believe that anyone so fearful would also be an A student with complementary extracurriculars, the piano and mountain climbing. Maggie's rebuilt confidence relies heavily on Nick Cleary, her hiking buddy and best friend, although the challenges they face on the trail aren't as interesting as their conversations on the ground. Her other worry, besides Raleigh, concerns a recent urge to kiss Nick. Thus the tension of this smart novel is within Maggie, and not between her and the societal problem of bullying.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY
A quiet, insightful look into the aftermath of bullying through the eyes of a former victim. Maggie is 17 now, but she still feels the effects of the torment she experienced in junior high school. When Raleigh Barringer, the popular girl who orchestrated physical, verbal and digital attacks against Maggie, returns to Maggie's high school after living in Italy, the teen is terrified. Details of Raleigh's past actions are revealed slowly over the course of the narrative. Through each relationship in Maggie's life, readers see how Raleigh's bullying has left an impact. As the book begins, Maggie and her close friend Nick are developing romantic feelings for each other. After they kiss, Maggie remembers Raleigh telling her that no boy would ever like her, so readers will likely realize long before Maggie does that Nick's interest is genuine. More subtly drawn is the rift that grows between Maggie and her friend Sylvie. Maggie is so certain that everyone besides herself is happy and well-adjusted that she neglects Sylvie's troubles with her girlfriend. Maggie and Nick climb tough mountains as a hobby, and the hazards and triumphs of their climbs are gripping and emotionally resonant. Well-crafted, though it treads some familiar ground. (Fiction. 12-18)