Not long ago, I read Backlash a 315 page novel by Sarah Darer Littman that follows the lives of four teenagers, Liam and Bree Conners and Liam and Sydney Kelly. Sarah Darer Littman is an award winning teen novelist. She has written books such as I’m Sure and Confessions of a Closet Catholic, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. As well as writing novels, She teaches creative writing as an adjunct professor in the MFA program at Western Connecticut State University, at the Yale Summer Writers’ Conference, and is an award-winning opinion columnist. She lives in Connecticut. I began reading this book in ELT when I couldn’t find a book so randomly grabbed the closest book to me and began to read. It might have been Stella’s(Sorry I’m sorry, not sure I gave it back… Or whoever’s book it is).
Lara is a mentally unstable girl and has had many issues in the past. She was bullied because of her weight, and after two years, she takes an initiative. She works out and eats well, and eventually makes the cheerleading squad. In a dramatic opening, Lara is being dumped by a guy she likes on Facebook. He calls her stupid and says, “The world would be a better place without you in it.” then blocks her after posting the chat online. Later, Sydney, her younger sister, knocks on the bathroom door where Lara is, but is nervous when there is no reply. She walks downstairs and tells her mom about it, and she responds by telling her to call 911 and runs upstairs. When the ambulance arrives, the paramedic says Lara overdosed. As they take her into the ambulance, Bree, their neighbor, takes a picture of Lara’s face and posts it on Facebook, basking in the amount of likes and comments such as, “Is Lardosaurus ok?”. The book then goes back two months and tells us how the two families, the Kellys and the Conners, used to be really close and Bree and Lara had been friends until about a year ago. It tells us how Lara used to have so much trouble with weight in middle school and would turn to Bree to tell her problems to. Bree was annoyed that Lara only talked about this one topic and never showed interest in how Bree was doing, so Bree decided to stop being friends with her. This is when Lara pulls herself back up and makes the Cheer team. Bree, who had been to many many cheer camps and tournaments, did not. As she walks away from the board, just finding out that she hadn’t made it and Lara had, she sees Lara laugh at her. Filled with anger, she goes home and thinks of a way to get revenge. She makes a profile for a guy and friends people in their grade. Finally, she friends Lara and starts to fake flirt with her. She plans to break up with Lara after a few days, but her friend takes it farther. They ask Lara about a dance, but don’t invite her. She gets really excited and starts picking out dresses. Her mom finds out about Bree’s plan and, instead of getting mad, joins in as a way of getting back at Lara’s mom for being a bad mayor. A month or so later, Christian finally break up with her. Lara is crushed. She has no idea that the guy she has been messaging is actually Bree. She runs into the bathroom and takes all the medicine in the cabinet. The story then goes back to the present, and the police track the IP address of the account back to Bree’s house. Bree confesses and the news spreads like wildfire. People bully her at school, even people who commented rude things on Facebook. Bree and her mom are called monsters, and news trucks line up outside their home. When Mr. Kelly finds out, he runs to their house and tries to punch Mr. Connors. Lara stares at Bree, wondering why she did it. Bree records Mr. Kelly and he is fined for a public disturbance. Time moves on and Bree moves away, still bullied for what she did. She dyes her hair black and joins the cheer team at her new school. Months later, at a basketball game between their schools, Lara sees Bree. She talks to her, and Bree seems very nervous and uncomfortable. And even though Lara wants to, she never asks why Bree did it. She moves on. Bree, on the other hand, is found to have scars up and down her forearms.
One of my favorite parts in Backlash is Sydney Kelly and Liam Connors’ relationship. Sydney and Liam bond over their similar situations. They realize that they are going through the same kind of deal and, even though they are warned by their parents against it, they become friends and it eventually becomes more romantic. This shows how sometimes the worst and cruelest situations can bring people together in times of need. Lara even says, “I wished I could have a relationship like theirs.” (pg 213). When they are together, you get a feeling of happiness, and it cheers up what would have been a depressing, downer of a story.
If I were to rate this book, I’d give it an 8/10. This is because, even though I absolutely adored this book, the characters, and the message behind it, there were somethings that bugged me. Even though this was an important part of the story, Lara never finds out why. Why Bree Conners, her childhood best friend, decided to create a fake Facebook account and flirt with her before publicly breaking up with her. She thinks about asking, but she doesn’t. She lets Bree walk away from her. And she accepts it. She doesn’t let her past hold her back. She lets it go. It’s supposed to be a heartwarming moment, but this really bugs me. She spends ALL this time thinking about it, and she never finds out. Personally, if I was in Lara’s shoes, this would annoy me for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t be able to move past it. I do admire this about her, though, because it shows us that she has grown as a person and won’t let things keep her from moving on, rather than her getting caught up on small problems like her middle school self. Overall, I recommend this book and hope a movie version is released.