Publisher: Fremantle Press
Release date: August, 2016
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Jasmine Lovely has it all – the looks, the grades, the friends. But when a house party spins out of control, Jazz discovers what can happen when your mistakes go viral …
We know our kids are at risk of becoming victims of cyberbullying. But do we know how at risk they are of becoming perpetrators? This controversial new novel tackles cyberbullying from a whole new perspective.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Saving Jazz is a new Aussie YA novel that tackles some of the most prevalent issues in modern day society. It explores cyberbullying, rape culture, victim blaming and the way people treat each other, especially through social media. This is a really important read, especially with the ever increasing cases of sexual assault in society today, as well as objectification of women on the internet. I was reminded of the disgusting piece of news that broke a few weeks ago in Australia about a website that men and high school boys use to exchange inappropriate pictures of high school girls that they’ve stalked and taken photos of without consent. I’m glad that this book tackles issues like these and makes it relevant to the technologically advanced society today.
The book begins with the scheme of a mother trying to rescue her daughter who has just attempted suicide. The rest of the novel is then written as a series of blog posts by Jazz, the protagonist of the book. She introduces her blog and herself by describing herself as a rapist and soon it becomes clear that she’s had something to do with the attempted suicide of the girl from the first chapter. The first half of the book has a wonderfully intriguing plot, as we try to find out what happened during the night that has since been called Greenheadgate. I enjoyed this mystery aspect of the book and found myself really immersed in the story as I tried to discover what Jazz meant by ‘rape’ and how it occurred. This first half of the book was simultaneously intriguing and disturbing at the same time. The way that these teenagers treated each other and treated themselves was quite upsetting for me. The boys in the book didn’t really see girls as anything except something that was there for their enjoyment. And the girls were equally horrible to each other. They said very vicious things about each other and didn’t really consider that these were people they were talking about. It was quite distressing to read about.
However, as important as I think this book and its message is, I had a couple of things that I didn’t really like. I found it to be a little bit problematic that the girls and victims in this novel saw cyberbullying as something that will just blow over and doesn’t need to be addressed. And in a lot of cases this might be true, but this book has a focus on cyberbullying through the posting and sharing of and commenting on nude/inappropriate pictures. I thought it was slightly problematic that these girls were not concerned about their privacy being violated as much as they were angry about being talked about. This was particularly true of the events that occurred during the night of Greenheadgate. The victim was raped and had her body violated while she was unconscious and she didn’t really seem to care about that. She doesn’t report it and seems to think that all is fine if other people don’t know about it. I just had a bit of a problem with this aspect of the book.
I really enjoyed the blog post format of the book because it gave Jazz a very distinct voice but I felt like there wasn’t a clear timeline. There were no dates or time stamps included and it was sometimes hard for me to grasp when things had taken place. It wasn’t too much of a problem but there were parts that felt draggy and parts that just skipped over things quickly. It just made the transitions a bit awkward. I also thought that the last 100 pages of the novel dragged on and on forever. The mystery of what occurred on the night of the rape was revealed in the first half of the book and the rest is about how Jazz deals with the aftermath. Because of this, it felt like the climax and resolution of the story was towards the middle of the novel and the remainder of it just seemed unnecessarily long. There were one too many issues explored towards the end of the book and it just felt never-ending.
This was due in part to the fact that I don’t think Jazz’s character really developed all that much. While we do see her guilt and her remorse, and how the events of that one night has changed her life, I thought overall her character development was pretty stagnant. She’s given the easy way out, in my opinion. She’s sent away by her parents as part of her punishment but things start going uphill for her as a result of not being in that high school environment. She finds romantic love and familial love from her aunt and uncle who she’s staying with. She studies through distance education at home and gets a job that she likes. It all came across to me as Jazz getting her happily ever after as a result of her punishment, and not really because she grew a lot as a person.
I definitely enjoyed the first half of the novel a lot more than the second half but overall, despite some problems that I had with the plot, I thought this was a book with really important messages that are very relevant to the world today.