Published by St. Martin's Griffin, St. Martin's Press on June 30, 2015
Genres: Social Issues, YA
Source: ARC provided by Publisher
Adamsville wasn't a place that people came to. It was a place you were from, where you were born, where you were raised, where you stayed…
Before Carolyn Lessing arrived, nothing much had ever happened in Adamsville, Alabama. Each week, at dinner tables and in the high school assembly, everyone would pray for the football team to win. Each year, the Adams High hotlist would be updated, and girls would rise and fall within its ranks. Each day, everyone lived by the unwritten rules that cheerleaders did not hang out with the swim team, seniors did not date freshmen and the blistering heat was something that should never be remarked upon. But then the new girl came.
All Carolyn's social media could reveal was that she had moved from New Jersey, she had 1075 friends – and she didn't have a relationship status. In beach photos with boys who looked like Abercrombie models she seemed beautiful, but in real life she was so much more. She was perfect.
This was all before the camera crews arrived, before it became impossible to see where rumour ended and truth began, and before the Annual Adamsville Balloon Festival, when someone swore they saw the captain of the football team with his arm around Carolyn, and cracks began to appear in the dry earth.
Welcome to my new feature Up Late With Kate where I share the latest midnight read that keeps me reading past the witching hour! Light that candle, grab a chair, and prepare to read all night!
A unblinking look at bullying, seen through the eyes not of the bullied, or the bullies, but rather the complacent classmates.
The narration style is first person plural, reminiscent of The Virgin Suicides, putting the reader inside the story. The narrator is never identified, always part of the fringe group, watching the drama unfold, sharing what they witnessed, what they heard, and what they want to be true. They skim the surface of truth, but often back away, afraid of their own guilt.
Contrary, unforgiving and uncomfortable, because if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all been part of the gossiping “We” that is telling this story. We build up and tear down and we fail to see the warning signs. Because they are there, but they get lost in the shuffle and excitement of rumor, jealousy and drama.
Carolyn is too beautiful, too shiny, too talented- the very things that attract people to her in the beginning is what ends up being used to bring her down. The push and pull of small town celebrity and notoriety do not rest easy on her shoulders, and the harder she tries the more she is punished.
It was bad enough when I was a teen, but I can’t imagine being one is this digital age, where every act can be recorded and reported, where teens spend hours taking the perfect selfie for their Facebook profile, but fire off comments and tweets with no thought to the damage that words can inflict.
It’s also sad that most of the damage done to Carolyn is inflicted by fellow females. The boys in her life are given a pass for their bad behavior, and the burden of perceived slights and injuries are placed fully on Carolyn, as if she is some Siren, calling the boys of Adams High to her side. This is, sadly, the most realistic part of the book. I witnessed it time and time again in high school- like when a popular senior boy, handsome and sought after, had the nerve to start dating a Freshman cheerleader. There was so much animosity spewed at her, but fortunately his popularity was enough that when they didn’t break up (like, ever, they’re married to this day, and it’s been almost 20 years since I was in school), the queen bees finally had to stop their buzzing and accept her into the hive. It helped though, that she was already an established member of the popular clique in our small town. It helped that the boy she fell in love with stood by her, and didn’t cave to the constant pressure to dump his younger girlfriend. Carolyn has none of that safety.
Adamsville is a very small, very insular town- everyone goes to church, everyone prays before the football games, and everyone obeys the invisible social lines drawn in the high school. And while Carolyn finds herself at odds with two main bullies, ultimately it is the town that punishes her for being an outsider.
Weightless is not an easy read, it will make you- angry, guilty, outraged, sad, remorseful, and a lot of other emotions that won’t sit easy with you. But this is why we read, to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. But we don’t always get to play the hero or the villain, sometimes we are the silent majority watching events unfold that we aren’t even sure we mean to contribute to. Give this book to a teen in your life, and talk to them about it. Talk to yourself about it, keep it in mind the next time you gossip idly about someone, because that old adage about sticks and stones breaking your bones but words never hurting is a load of horse poop. It’s good to be reminded to be a little nicer, in our thoughts and in our actions.
Weightless gets a Midnight Book Rating of:
*May require hug therapy when done reading this book- I recommend kittens, but any baby animal or sweet old person should do (although you should probably seek the consent of sweet old person in case they have a heavy purse full of quarters and attack you with it because they were unprepared for a flying tackle hug). *