Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Are you still there by Sarah Lynn Scheerger - review by Isabella

Are you still there is a psychological thriller that is engaging from start to finish. The story begins with a school under lockdown. Desperately trying to remain hidden and cursing her untimely decision to use the bathroom, a girl is perched on a toilet seat. Luckily, the bomb is found in time and everyone is saved. However, the bomber is still on the loose and it could be literally anyone. Trying to move on and keep her life together, Gabi as well as several other students begin volunteer at the school’s anonymous helpline. There she connects in a Breakfast Club-esque way with her fellow helpline volunteers and realizes the danger of not living her life fully, but also the danger of judging people incorrectly. As the school year progresses, Gabi begins to receive ominous threats from the bomber that lead to her to believe that somehow she is a part of his morbid plans.
Overall, I liked the structure of this novel a lot. I thought it was creative to include messages from the bomber throughout the novel, so that although the plot line shifts, the main story arc is not neglected. Furthermore, I thought that these notes helped increase the suspense of the story, as well as give insight on the character of the bomber because he and Gabi hardly interact with one another. Also, I enjoyed the development of Gabi character because it stresses the importance of having a life outside of school, which students sometimes neglect. Also, in contrast to reviews of the advanced copy, many of the reviewers complaints were fixed in this final edition, which I believe should be commended. The changes the other reviewers suggested, really improved this novel and made it an enjoyable read. For instance, some reviewers complained about Gabi’s reluctance to approach her father (the detective in charge of the investigation) with the threats. In this edition, it is explained that she was worried about being separated from her friends, as her parents were considering to put her and her sister in a private school. Therefore, it makes sense for her to be reluctant, as speaking up would have cemented her parents’ resolve to put her in a different school.

Finally, I think that this novel presents a very important message: it is never right to judge others by their exterior, as rarely can a facade represent the whole story. Nowadays, social media has become an integral part of life for many teenagers and thus they often forget that there is more to a person than their tweets and posts. People are multifaceted and Are you still there really captures the importance of remembering to give others a genuine chance. I think text would be a wonderful read in an English or Psychology class. One thing to note is that this text deals with many mature themes: suicide, bomb threats, and  alcoholism.

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