I let my 12-year-old daughter read this before I did. The fact that she read it in about a day made me understand that the book was spot on, and that it captured whatever it is that inspires a “don’t leave your bed until the book is finished” day for a middle schooler.
As a parent, her subject matter is incredibly painful — a cautionary tale in Snapchat-like apps that cause embarrassment and worse for vulnerable early teens. When I read it, I told my daughter that Stead must live in the New York area, because an incident very similar to the one described in the book happened at our local high school. At the time, I told my daughters about it, and I warn them about it (frequently, I’m told) when the topic comes up. So for me, this book was a little vindication for my own cautionary tales.
Besides that theme, there is so much else to love about this book. The characters are real; unpredictable and unsure of themselves despite what their texts or their photos may say. I found the dramatically different levels of innocence so true for this tumultuous time of life, and I appreciated that Stead offers this range as typical. I highly recommend this book to all middle schoolers, it is astonishing in it’s honesty and it is compelling in its search for understanding and compassion.