Publication Date: 5/2/15
Source: Uncorrected proof
School should be a safe place for Jess, a refuge from her difficult home life – but thanks to Kez and her friends, it’s everything she dreads. Despite being beautiful and popular, Kez’s life isn’t any sweeter. She clings to the fact she is better off than Jess – or so she thinks…Told from the point of view of the bullied and the bully, this is a taut, powerful story of two girls locked in battle with each other and themselves, spiralling towards a shocking conclusion.
I feel a little like I’m behind the times with this book as it seemed to be one everyone was talking about before it was released, but then the hype dropped off. I read this back at the beginning of April on a sunny afternoon in the garden, and I finished it pretty much in one sitting.
The protagonists of this book are two teenagers called Jess and Kez who take turns as narrator. They are both well-written, realistic and rounded characters with their own personal struggles to contend with. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of Jess’ relationship with her mum as this gave me an insight into her feelings – her own self-disgust, guilt, and shame, and her the way her mum’s barked words and obvious disappointment add to these feelings. Kez too is a really interesting character as it is not often we get to see inside the head of the bully. By narrating parts of the story from her perspective, Ainsworth allows us to understand why she is targeting Jess. There is a difficult balance to strike between evoking the reader’s empathy for this character, through this increased understanding, whilst also encouraging a lack of acceptance for her behaviour, and Ainsworth manages the challenge fantastically well.
The structure of this book is intriguing; set over the course of 1 week (hence the title), this tight time frame makes for an intense read. Ainsworth uses this to great effect to show both her protagonists’ perspectives on events as they unfold and this works to increase the tension throughout the novel. The extended focus on a short period of time also demonstrates how quickly things can escalate out of control, which is an important point for the novel to make about the effects of bullying and therefore this works really well. The pacing is good throughout and the story unfolds really well, with a redeeming ending which offers hope to victims of bullying.
This is a really important book as it addresses the potentially devastating effects of bullying in an open and non-judgemental way. Ainsworth writes with empathy and honesty – this book is well worth a read.