In Sarah Darer Littman’s novel, Backlash, the protagonist, Lara, has been devastated to find out the guy she thought liked her really doesn’t. The thing is, Lara didn’t actually know Christian – she met him online. And when he was so mean to her, it reminded her of what happened to her in middle school, and she felt so badly about herself that she tries to take herself out of the picture – permanently.
Told in alternating points of view from Lara, her sister Sydney, former best friend Bree, and Bree’s younger brother Liam, this novel emphasizes the fact that what hurts us in real life can also hurt us online, and that hiding behind a keyboard to be mean can, as the title indicates, come back to bite you in the butt. Littman explores the fallout of Lara’s suicide attempt as a result of the loss of her budding “relationship” with “Christian.” As the truth emerges, perceptions change and we come to learn that some people are not who they seem to be.
An interesting subplot involves the relationship between Sydney and Liam, who, despite the growing rift between their families, really seem to enjoy each other’s company. The family dynamics here are incredible to read. Lara struggles to overcome the cyberbullying she’s experienced while Mom is trying to make it a criminal offense, not even considering how Lara might feel about her crusade.
At some points this book is difficult to read – it’s sometimes hard to believe that people actually treat each other the way the characters in Lippman’s book do. But then we read articles daily about another child committing suicide due to bullying and cyber-bullying, and we know that as hard as it is to read, we not only NEED to read it, we need to FIGHT it.