Review: Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Weightless

Cover image from Goodreads

Weightless

Sarah Bannan

Bloomsbury, 2015

Adamsville, Alabama is a small town. Everyone knows each other, they have for years. Then, one sweltering summer’s day, Carolyn Lessing arrives in town. New, beautiful and talented, Carolyn enthralls everyone in Adams High. They look on her Facebook page, trying to find out as much as they can about her past. She is watched constantly, everyone is intrigued by this mysterious newcomer who suddenly makes it onto the Adams High Hot List. Rumours about her fly about the school. But soon the gossip takes a darker turn and Carolyn’s perfect facade begins to crack…

Told in the first person plural (we) Sarah Bannan’s debut novel is utterly compelling. The novel is told from the point of view of a group of girls hovering on the edge of the popular crowd, who watch Carolyn’s fall from popularity and her downward spiral into despair. The effect of the narration is chorus-like, and implicates the reader as one of those silent watchers. The novel is interspersed with texts, Facebook posts, letters and school reports showing both the role of social media in bullying and the attitude the school takes to the various incidents.

This is not an easy book to read, Bannan doesn’t pull back from showing the harshness of the bullying and the destructive impact it has on Carolyn. Bannan shows the pressure on all the girls in the book to keep up with the in-crowd and the gossip. But the attacks on Carolyn – from others and herself – are described in detail by the narrators, who are enthralled by the unfolding drama. There is a real sense of surveillance as Carolyn’s outfits are discussed, her actions filmed, photographed or discussed via text or Facebook.

Weightless is a chilling read, reminiscent of recent tragedies, that will make the reader question their own culpability as a bystander to bullying and that shows vividly the how bullying operates in the digital age. I think the UK cover is excellent – the little cursor on the girl’s face reflecting the role of social media in the book, and the image itself the pervasive pressure on Carolyn and the other girls to appear perfect. This book has crossover appeal, for both adult and YA audiences. Gripping, horrifying and unforgettable.

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