I Swear

I Swear

“She finally knew one thing for sure: Even if she went to Portland, even if she drove a hundred miles an hour and didn’t stop until she was standing on Aunt Laura’s doorstep, she could never outrun this pain. It would never end, unless she ended it. “Right now. “Deep down inside, she knew that going to Aunt Laura’s would never do that. That was just the story she’d told herself to get her to the car in the garage. Going nowhere was the only real option. It had been her first idea, and now in the warmth of the garage, with the sound of the softly purring engine, and the song filling her ears, she decided it had been her best choice. In the end, it was the least complicated, and the only thing that would work for certain.

“As the exhaust began to tickle her nose, she laid her head back against the seat and closed her eyes.”

It is Labor Day, the official end of summer vacation, the dawning of yet another school year, and I’ve been escaping the triple-digits down here in Texas Aggie country with a red-hot read that officially releases tomorrow. The new school year brings with it the opportunity for kids to grow and learn and prosper. It also brings kids the risk of becoming a target for those whose agendas reveal the worst in humanity as they torture and degrade their fellow students with name calling, rumor mongering, physical abuse and -- here in the twenty-first century -- cyber bullying.

Leslie Gatlin is so miserable that she has taken her own life, and I SWEAR is the story of the afterward from the point of view of those who loved and/or tortured the high school senior. Jake: “No one lifted a fork, or a fry. All eyes were glued on Katherine. Even Macie was paying attention. ‘What did they tell your dad,’ she asked quietly. “’They were hired by the Gatlins,’ Katherine said slowly. The smile and the iciness of her voice had fallen away. She was just giving us the facts now.

‘The Gatlins are claiming that Leslie killed herself because of unrelenting bullying. They are gathering evidence to file a civil suit for wrongful death. And they are discussing criminal charges with the district attorney.’ “The words dropped from Katherine’s lips and gently settled over the table like a thick layer of soot. Everyone else was looking at Katherine. I was looking at Macie.”

At the epicenter of the story are Jake and Macie. Macie Merrick, daughter of a popular state senator, might well be the filthiest, most manipulative piece of humankind that I’ve ever encountered in young adult literature. This is one of those books where you want to go wash your hands after you read what this despicable young woman is capable of. We learn that it began back at the time when they were all freshmen. Macie wanted Jake. But Jake wanted no part of her.

Meanwhile, Leslie and Jake were good friends, and so Macie began a long and well-orchestrated campaign to make Leslie miserable and encourage her to kill herself. It began with Macie spreading the rumor that Leslie’s well-endowed chest was the result of surgery – surgery paid for through sexual favors. Too far-fetched a rumor you say? All you need to do is read a few pages of Macie in action, and I guarantee that you will withdraw your objection.  Macie started on Leslie when all the characters were freshmen, and she has never once eased up on her victim.

Having the story come to revolve around the depositions that all of the characters are going to have to give under oath provides the perfect pressure cooker for our learning the inner-most thoughts and secrets of the clique of popular girls with whom Macie has systematically surrounded herself, the girls who figure that they’d better support Macie so as to not end up in the crosshairs like Leslie. These girls include a star gymnast, a successful beauty pageant participant…and Jake’s twin sister.

Well-known librarian Patrick Jones used to talk about how the ultimate works of young adult literature are those which come to be included in both a given year’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list and Best Books for Young Adults list (which, these days, is a fiction-only list). The intensity of this read, combined with the story’s significant bullying and cyber bullying aspects, make this a book that I heartily endorse for recognition on both of those book lists. And remember, folks, you are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem. 288 pages Ages 14 and up 978-1-4424-3506-3

Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, Librarian, California USA Richie's Picks _http://richiespicks.com_ (http://richiespicks.com/)

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