My rating: 3/5 Stars
Publisher: Simon Pulse (June 2014)
Length: 416 pgs
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, checked out from my local library
Godreads Synopsis: Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time.
When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it’s everything Lucy has ever dreamed of… and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole’s lingering sweetness, Lucy knows they’ll have to ’fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy’s own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students’ party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral.
By Monday morning, Lucy’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation.
Lucy’s been battling undead masses online long enough to know there’s only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend’s trust, and graduate with a clean slate.
There’s just one snag—Cole. Turns out Lucy’s not the only one who’s been harboring unrequited love..
#scandal was not initially on my TBR list. I was at the library picking up a hold when #scandal caught my eye on the newer-releases shelf, and having never read anything by Sarah Ockler I decided to give it a shot. Despite many readers warning me that #scandal is not Ocklers’ best novel, I rather enjoyed Ockler’s tackling of cyber bullying in this novel.
#scandal addresses a phenomena that’s all too common today- compromising party pics get uploaded online the morning after. That’s the catalyst for this novel, with Lucy’s cell phone getting stolen and her ending up taking the blame for someone uploading post-prom pics from her stolen phone. Lucy faces the fallout from her own friends, her classmates, her school administration, and other students’ parents, and the book takes on kind of a silly “whodunnit” vibe where she teams up with the stereotypical high school tropes (nerdy newspaper editor, anti-establishment club kids, etc) to clear her name. Meanwhile, there’s an online personality “Miss Demeanor” who adds fuel to the fire on her “scandal” page (gossip girl, anyone?).
I couldn’t figure out whether this book was supposed to be a satire or not. The characters sometimes speak in “texting” type lingo and Lucy has a lot of sarcastic asides. Couple this with the stereotyped classmates, a costume-party prom, a famous actress who happens to be an alumnus from their high school, the ridiculous slut shaming (someone creates a fan page in revenge called “Juicy Lucy”) and a school principle who can’t even manage her own social media, and the novel had was so ridiculous in some points it was absurd what was happening or being said. Yet once I decided to view this novel in a satirical light, I found myself enjoying the story much more. As a social commentary, this book brings up a lot of issues, such as teens paralleling the paparazzi influenced celebrity life and over-documenting their lives to the point of mutually assured social destruction. It also portrayed how the cycle of cyber-bullying is never ending, as Lucy the “bully” (or rather, as she’s framed) quickly becomes victimized through revenge Facebook pages, nasty altered images of her, and harassing threats and comments constantly left on her profiles. The alternative group (e)VIL, the anti-technology group of misfits at Lucy’s high school who reject all technology and jump on every conspiracy theory, may be painted as absurd but the other characters begin to see their point- technology allows the nastiest, most vengeful side of people to come out.
One thing that really frustrated me throughout the novel was Lucy’s constant neglect to stand up for herself. Since one of the pictures that got uploaded was of her kissing her best friend’s boyfriend (the situation isn’t even as bad as it seems, as you’ll find out later in the novel) she feels guilty and as if she “deserves” all of the consequences, harassment, and bullying. While she definitely made an error in judgement kissing Cole (who receives less than a quarter of the harassment as she does), it’s not an excuse for her to take the bullying and slut shaming lying down, and she neglects 90% of the opportunities to stand up for herself or to clear her name, and it’s constantly her friends defending her. So while I liked that the book addressed cyber bullying, it dropped the ball by having a protagonist who allowed herself to be railroaded by unfair harassment.
Overall: Despite the fact that this book had too many issues to juggle (cyber bullying, slut shaming, a romance, family issues, and a brief side plot of sexual harassment) I found myself to enjoy Ockler’s satirical approach (if that in fact was what she meant to do) and found myself continuing the book because I wanted to find out who made the reputation-ruining move for so many people by simply pushing an “upload” button. I think there’s probably better books out there that tackle cyber bullying and harassment but Ockler’s book is an OK addition to the YA shelves, suffering mainly due to a lack of confidence from her protagonist.
Do you have any recommendations for books that deal with similar issues? Let me know in the comments!