Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman

Release Date: August 1, 2011

Pages: 336

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Format: Hardcover

Source: Barnes & Noble

Age Group: Young Adult

Parental Warnings: internet predator; kidnapping; sexual content; language

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                                                                       Want to Go Private?Want to Go Private?

Recommended for Ages 16 and Up

due to above specifications

Abby and Luke chat online. They've never met. But they are going to. Soon.Abby is starting high school--it should be exciting, so why doesn't she care? Everyone tells her to "make an effort," but why can't she just be herself? Abby quickly feels like she's losing a grip on her once-happy life. The only thing she cares about anymore is talking to Luke, a guy she met online, who understands. It feels dangerous and yet good to chat with Luke--he is her secret, and she's his. Then Luke asks her to meet him, and she does. But Luke isn't who he says he is. When Abby goes missing, everyone is left to put together the pieces. If they don't, they'll never see Abby again.

Abby is content to be with her best friend Faith and just glide through high school. She doesn't want to have to go through the motions, make new friends, have a boyfriend, or any of it. She's content to watch Aragorn in Lord of the Rings and hang out by the pool.So what happens when Faith makes a new friend, Grace? And what happens when Faith starts doing drama club, drifting apart from Abby? Abby dives into an online world. There she meets a boy in a chat room who she had talked to earlier with Faith. He sympathized and told her exactly what she wanted to hear.It started with a picture. An innocent picture of her, and a simple picture of him. As his demands grew, (first a topless picture, then a video chat, etc,) Abby starts to be trapped in an exchange she cannot exchange. So when Abby goes missing, what are the people left behind supposed to think? Will they ever find Abby?This intense and horrifying novel explores the dangers of the internet and the crumbling world of a girl trapped in its clutches.Parents should know that although Abby, the main protagonist, is fourteen, this is NOT a book aimed for younger teens. I was trying to expand my reading horizons and I had heard amazing things about this book, so when I saw it in Barnes & Noble today, I had to have it.This book's writing was intense, with a brutal honesty that didn't let me go for a second. Sarah Darer Littman paced it perfectly, letting you both immerse yourself into Abby's emotions and figure out the next step, without being predictable. Her writing was agonizing and emotional and raw.By reading the synopsis, I knew what would happen, so there was a twist in my stomach as I nervously read, every bit of suspense building up until Abby went missing. The entire first part of this book is like a horror movie, where you flinch and yell at the heroine, "Don't do it! Don't go in there!" or "No no no no no she's so clueless!" and then dive under a blanket to cover your eyes.I must admit that it was a new experience for me, reading a book like this. And that's what it was...an experience. Abby is written so well that she feels real. Everybody just expects her to be something, and she just wants to be herself and not change. Her entire world was changing in front of her, and she needed somebody to understand. Unfortunately, she was most vulnerable to him, changing her life forever.I hadn't read any about internet predators, and every review of this book that I have read has been glowing. I agree with all of them, because this is a gem among the books. Although I wouldn't say that it's appropriate for younger teens, I'm glad that I read it, but I wished that I had been maybe a year or two older when this book came out.The best and worst part about this book was that it felt real. The experience that Abby went through could have easily happened to a number of teenagers everywhere, and it has. Want to Go Private? really emphasized the importance of it not being the victim's fault. Abby was manipulated and taken advantage of.It really started so innocent and sweet. Abby and Faith were having friendship problems, debating over whether to watch Lord of the Rings that night, and talking about starting high school. It was familiar territory for me, because I, like any other girl, stresses over starting high school and things changing around me.And I, like every other dorky girl, LOVE watching Lord of the Rings (I admit that I take Faith's side...I am a Legolas lover, although I do see Abby's point with Aragorn.)I guess that's what makes girls our age vulnerable to the internet predators like the one spotlighted in the book. We all feel a sense of loneliness, feeling alone and misunderstood. Honestly? It may be only a few of us, but from what I've read in books, it's the general feeling. So I empathized with Abby and understood her.Granted, sometimes I didn't understand the CHOICES that she made, but that was a whole different matter. First of all, I found several warning bells when Luke was just a simple boy that she wanted to get to know online. "Bra size"? No way would I EVER tell a guy that, much less one that I knew only for a few days, and ONLINE.Sometimes I did want to shake her and scream, it was so frustrating, but then I would think back, relax, and feel an incredible amount of pity for her and grief that her life is changed forever. I mean, there were warning signs, but in her sadness she must not have noticed them. I can't really decide how I felt about that.I thought that the point Sarah was trying to convey is that she was trapped in a web of deceit. No matter what decisions that she may have made, it was Abby who was the victim in a scary game.I really enjoyed how the entire book was divided into three parts. There was the first part, Abby feeling alienated and starting to let Luke into her life. She figured that she was safe in the safety of her bedroom, in her pajamas, without prying eyes. She was just talking to a cute guy, what was the harm, right? Wrong.The second part was filled with terror, of her family and friends. Told in many split points of view, the reactions range from horror to anger to grief and fear about Abby. The first part was more of the vulnerability, while the second part was about the reactions from the people around her. This was where the emotions came in.The third and final part of the book alternated between many people's points of view. This part of the book talked about the aftermath. The devastation of Abby and her family, the scorn that Abby had to face afterwards, and the horrifying reality of what had happened. It was honestly awful to read about what people said and did to her, and when they judged her.I think I may have teared up several times during this book. Although it wasn't dreary, this book did play with my emotions.One simple IM led to her kidnapping and her life falling apart.The most interesting part of the book for me was the process. It would have been another book if it were about after the kidnapping, or even during. I really enjoyed how we got to see Abby falling for Luke and being slowly sucked in by his charms and understanding. What she said was the most appealing quality was that he "listened".Isn't that just what every teenager just wants? To be actually listened to and understood. Luke targeted that part of Abby and attacked her. It made an incredibly powerful, moving, and informative book.Among the horrible plot line of the story (I mean the subject, not the book), there was even a little bit of romance. Almost bittersweet, it consisted mostly of healing from the wounds inflicted upon them. Billy was supportive of Abby and willing to help her with everything. He stuck with her until the end, after enduring the wrath of classmates and the judgement of his parents. I loved Billy.Faith was just like the stereotypical best friend, in a good way. She didn't realize that she was pushing Abby away until she got the terrifying news that Abby had gone missing. She pored for hours over everything that Abby had told her, trying to find a way to save her best friend.On a personal note, I felt that Faith was just like every good best friend that a girl needs to have. You may drift apart for a while, but you know that you will always remain best friends. It was sweet to read about her and Abby, and their relationship was a happier contrast from the rest of the book.Lily was honest, one of those slightly more shallow characters who was blunt. She told her parents and Abby exactly what she thought, and it was refreshing to hear her voice throughout the story.I couldn't decide how I felt about Grace. Grace didn't seem to like Abby until she became the center of attention. She supported Abby, but she hadn't cared about her before. It rung a false bell with me, and I wished that that issue had been addressed towards the end of the book.The only characters I really didn't like were the parents. Abby's mom actually bothered to research the subject and accepted her daughter (flaws and all) after the incident but I hated how her father didn't listen to her. Why did he think that she talked to Luke in the first place?This book is made of pure power. A truth that we would rather not face, Want to Go Private? addresses a scary issue that doesn't pop up very often in YA literature. Stunning and raw, Want to Go Private? will not leave you.Recommended for anybody who loves: Living Dead Girl; Cyberbully (movie); The Tension of Opposites; Bitter End; etc,.Possible book club questions:How do you think that this book will bring more attention to this issue?How do you think Billy reacted to the pictures?Who do you think had the most impact on Abby afterwards?Did therapy help the family?Listening was the reason Abby talked to Luke. How was communication both the solution and the problem in this book?Do you think that it was Abby's fault?Would you have wanted to know who was downloading the series?etc,.A Note to the Parents:This book can be very inappropriate at some times. Harsh topics are discussed, and it is the main part of the book. Sexual assault and a predator is also central to the plot. I would suggest giving this to your teen if they are at a very mature fifteen or at least sixteen, as it contains content not suitable for a younger audience.Of course, it all depends on the child. If you feel that your child is mature enough to understand the themes of the book, then it's up to you. It is a great book and I highly recommend it to anybody looking for an amazing contemporary read.You should also know that all content in this book is of an educational nature. This book was intended to convey the dangers of the internet, and also displays some helpful tips for keeping your child safe.Thank you for reading this review,Grace