Want to Go Private?
Sarah Darer Littman. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-545-15146-7
Littman (Life, After) pens a harrowing cautionary tale about the dangers that lurk online. Fourteen-year-old Abby feels insecure and unhappy as she starts high school, failing to fit in and drifting apart from her best friend Faith. Abby finds an outlet in ChezTeen.com ("kind of like Second Life, but for teens"), where she meets Luke, a sympathetic listener who flatters her. She becomes entirely dependent on him, letting her grades slip, withdrawing from the real world, and rationalizing away red flags that arise: he is twice her age, he tells her he loves her almost immediately, and he asks for (and receives) sexual favors. She decides to meet him. Structured in three parts with alternating narrators (before, during, and after Abby's disappearance) to create suspense, this message-driven story guarantees invested readers. While the novel's trajectory is predictable and no reader will think for a second that Luke aka BlueSkyBoi is a good guy, Abby's actions are entirely believable. To a degree, the novel relies on readers' feeling smarter than Abby, yet Littman demonstrates how easy it is to fall under the sway of a charming predator. Ages 14-up. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/23/2011