Weightless blew my mind. This is literary YA fiction, and that is a mythological creature as elusive as unicorns and mermaids. Everyone won’t enjoy it, but they all will want to talk about it. The style is experimental and controversial, but, Wow! I highly recommend giving this book a real shot, or at least reading my entire review before you dismiss it. This book is set to be released June 30, 2015, but because I’m blogging about it a little early, you can go to the Goodreads page until June 30th for chance to win your own copy of Weightless.
Carolyn moves to Alabama and gains instant popularity in her new high school. Pretty, smart, friendly, and wise to the trends of style and fashion, she becomes a lightning rod for love and jealousy. When she gets the guy and the homecoming court nomination, it seems that her life couldn’t get much better, at least to those watching from the outside. When the popular crowd turns against her, the observing herd justifies her treatment and silently watches things swirl out of control.
The honesty of Weightless resonated strongly for me as a reader, as a former average teen, and as a current teacher. Any YA who picks up this book will recognize how real the observations and the situations are. They will also recognize and understand exactly how something like this could happen – how people see things and weigh it carefully on their own petty scales of justice but don’t feel that they can or even should take action. This book also surprised me because it is the only book that I have ever read that was written entirely in first person plural. It was unsettling, but such a smart choice. It firmly places the reader in the crowd – as part of the “we” who observes everything but takes no responsibility for the ultimate fallout. This is smart because most people do spend high school on the perimeter of the popular crowd, watching and commenting on an exclusive life that will never be theirs, so it is a most believable vantage point. I found this compelling and brilliant, but do I think everyone like this book? No. Part of the truth in this book is that the characters are focused on things that real teens focus on: what people wear, what products and brands people buy, what people post on social media, what people wear (again), what people weigh, ect. It is like being trapped in an elevator with a bunch of teens — the perfume and hair products will make you queasy, the inane chatter will make you question the future of humanity, and you will feel real discomfort because you know this is exactly how you acted when you were one of them. Other readers will find that the first person plural point of view alienates them — so many readers connect with books when they relate to a narrator, which is a lot harder to do when you never even know her name. Nevertheless, this is one of the most truthful books I have ever read about bullying from a teen perspective, and it is makes a powerful statement about what bullying is and how it is ignored, escalated, and misunderstood in our modern society I will add it to our classroom library and encourage those who enjoyed Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why to give it a chance. There are mature elements — the language, sexual situations, and events are tough, but necessary if you really want to talk about bullying in high schools. It is appropriate for mature high school readers.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.