Want to Go Private? By Sarah Darer Littman
I want all of you to read this. Really.
Abby is worried about beginning high school because she thinks that life will be even worse than middle school now that there with be more Clique Queens to make her feel bad about herself. Her BFF, Faith, is looking forward to ninth grade as a chance to meet new people who attended the other middle school in town. But when Faith meets Grace and starts hanging out with her—and then finds a love interest with Ted—Abby realizes she was right.
High school sucks.
And home is just as bad. Abby’s dad recently started his own business and he’s never around. Her sister, Lily, is in 7th grade and lives to irritate Abby and fight with her. What Abby does have is her ‘second life’ on ChezTeen.com. It’s just like Second Life, but for teens only. Avatars get in groups, meet up, hang out, go to concerts. And Abby only talks to people she knows. Until she meets BlueSkyBoi.
BlueSkyBoi has the same favorite music as Abby. He thinks they are soul mates. When he asks Abby if she wants to go private, she decides it can’t hurt anything. After all, she’s not giving him her real name or her address. Plus, it feels great to talk to him, even though he is twenty-seven. He always supports her, agrees wither that Faith is being a jerk and not a very good best friend. He’s sweetly jealous, so that when Abby goes on her first date with a guy in her science class, BlueSkyBoi—whose name is Luke—convinces her that she is his girl.
Want to Go Private? does a great job at showing that academic intelligence (Abby is a straight A student) isn’t the same as emotional intelligence. She’s sweet and a bit nerdy even, but she’s very naïve. It also does a great job at showing how an Internet predator grooms his victims. He doesn’t ask her to do crazy things all of a sudden. Luke builds Abby’s trust over months. Even when he starts to ask her to do weird things (“What is your bra size?”), she knows that she wouldn’t put up with that in class from a boy at school. But in her own bedroom, wearing her pajamas, she feels safe.
How Abby progresses from telling Luke her bra size through the many online sexual behaviors he gets her to do is a gripping story. And when she agrees to meet him and gets into that car, the next page of the book is black. Just black. And the next chapters are narrated by her sister Lily, her BBF Faith and the science class guy, Billy, who’s been crushing on her. What happens to Abby then isn’t the whole story. Luke—and that isn’t his real name—isn’t done with her, and has the opportunity to ruin her life, with all the explicit videos he has of her.
I had a nightmare about this after I read it, something that just doesn’t happen to someone like me, who’s read so many YA books. But it’s better to have nightmares about a character in a book that about a real-life student. So even though there are some explicit scenes of online sexual behavior, I hope you’ll read Want to Go Private? Because you’ll get an idea of how a predator can make someone really smart do something really dumb. And you’ll learn without getting hurt.