Book Review: Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman

Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic Press, April 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-65126-4

When a young person tries to commit suicide after being cyberbullied, what are the consequences? What should happen to the bully? How does the victim recover? What are the parents’ roles and responsibilities? How does the victim go back to a normal life and face the bully or bullies? How are siblings affected? These are questions kids often don’t consider until it’s too late.

From the switching points of view of four teenagers, a victim and her younger sister and a bully and her younger brother, Backlash addresses the repercussions to the kids and their families of an instance of cyberbullying. Their descriptions of events and feelings hint at causes such as family dysfunction, peer pressure, and the self-absorption common to youth. Voices of parents, police investigators, and a counselor become clear as the kids relate how they each understand the events and their consequences. The characters are fully developed, as is the role of each in the unfortunate incident and its backlash.

Sarah Darer Littman’s book should be read by teens, discussed in classrooms, and suggested to parents of bullies and victims. The story doesn’t give solutions, only a scenario, and the hopeful outcomes for these characters can’t be anticipated in all cyberbullying cases—the victim here doesn’t die, for instance, and gets counseling. But the horrible consequences portrayed in the story might make a reader recognize his or her own mindset and think before bullying or reacting to a bully. As the author points out in the voice of one of the characters, words can hurt or even cause a death.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, November 2015.
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation, the first two Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.