Who’s to blame when bullying leads to suicide? A gripping exploration of crucial importance seeks answers in and out of the courtroom.
After years of abuse from her classmates, and thinking she had no other options, Leslie took her own life. Now her abusers are dealing with the fallout. In the eyes of the accused girls, they are not to blame: Leslie chose to take her life. She chose to be the coward they always knew she was. As criminal proceedings examine the systematic cyber bullying and harassment that occurred, the girls vow to keep their stories straight and make Leslie seem weak. But as the events leading up to her death unfold, it becomes clear that although Leslie took her own life, her bullies took everything else. Told in alternating perspectives and through well-paced flashbacks, this timely novel sheds light on both the victims of bullying and the consequences bullies face.
I Swear 1. JILLIAN When I got back to my room with the Diet Cokes, Macie was finishing the Facebook message to Leslie. As I set the cans down on the desk, she looked up at me with a quick smirk, then back at the screen. A satisfied smile slowly spread across her face. Then she flipped a long strand of honey-blond hair over her shoulder.
“Straight-A Jillian, your proofreading skills are now required. Nothing is worse than a typo in a suicide note.”
“Totally.” Krista giggled. “That would really make you want to kill yourself.” She and Beth dissolved into laughter on the floor. I gingerly stepped over Katherine to sit down at the computer as Macie slid away and popped open a Diet.
The words on the screen were typed into a Facebook message. It read:
TOP 10 THINGS TO REMEMBER IN YOUR SUICIDE NOTE
1. Apologize for all the terrible sweaters you wore.
2. A brief rundown of how bad you were at volleyball.
3. How much it hurt that your daddy was never home enough.
4. Tell everyone how sorry you are that you won’t be at prom this year, so someone else will have to be “worst dressed.”
5. A thank-you to all your best girlfriends, who were so nice to you. (Oh. Wait. There weren’t any because you were a slut who stole people’s boyfriends.)
6. Who you’re leaving all your craptastic earrings to.
7. How sad you were that your boobs never grew in.
8. A line from one of those stupid country songs you listened to.
9. Why we shouldn’t be sad now that you’re gone. (Not that we would be.)
10. Tell Jake how you’re doing this for him so that he won’t have ugly babies.
“Is ‘craptastic’ a word?” I asked.
“Oh, who cares? It’s not like she’s clever enough to use a word like that in a book report, let alone a suicide note.” Macie was very pleased with herself. I could tell that this week at school would be easier. She’d been begging for a sleepover since last Monday. Finally, I’d invented a chemistry exam that required a study group so my mom would buy into a Sunday-night slumber party. Now if we could just get this message sent before Jake got home, we’d be set.
“Looks good,” I said. “Our weekly missive appears to be ready.”
“Oh, Beeeeeth . . . ,” trilled Macie. It was a silly tradition that we’d established. Macie typed, I proofread, Beth pressed send every week.
“Ta-da!” squealed Beth, the tiny gymnast in our midst, who jumped in a single fluid motion from the floor to the chair at the computer desk, somehow joining me on a seat I didn’t realize had room for the both of us.
And as she turned around, the door to my room swung open with such force that it bounced against the wall and knocked the lamp off my dresser. Krista screamed as the bulb flashed purple and burned out. Suddenly, all six feet, two inches of my twin brother, Jake, were standing in the doorway.
“Where did you get this?” he asked. His voice was so still, no one dared to breathe. There was no air left in the room.
I tried to act nonchalant. I squinted at the silver chain dangling from his fist as if I couldn’t quite make out what he was holding, as if I didn’t know.
But I knew. We all did. And Jake’s knuckles were white.
Katherine was typically the quiet one, but she must’ve noticed me flinch under Jake’s gaze, because she was the only one to jump in.
“What is that?” she asked, sitting up on the knees of her plaid pajama pants and reaching for the anchor dangling from the chain in Jake’s hand.
Without moving his eyes from mine, he pulled the chain out of her reach as a cloud crossed his clear blue eyes.
“Jills, you know exactly what it is,” he said.
The short sleeve of Jake’s green polo strained against the biceps of his right arm as he gripped the necklace. The pendant trembled on the chain from the tension in his hand. His whole body was on a slow boil.
“Dang, Jake.” Macie whistled. “You’re so sexy when you’re angry.”
For one moment, Jake’s eyes left me and fixed on Macie in a look of such contempt that even Macie withered backward from the heat.
“Don’t ever speak to me again,” he spat at her so slowly it felt like the words were separate explosions from an armful of hand grenades he’d lobbed into each corner of the room. “I want you out of my life.”
Then he turned on his heel and headed back down the hall.
I’ll never forget how we sat there in silence for what seemed like an eternity as we listened to the front door slam, then the car door, then heard Jake squeal away from the curb. I didn’t realize it then, but that was the moment it all began—or it all ended, depending on your point of view, I suppose. In the span of time between his tires peeling out and Krista’s next giggle, I sat in the eerie quiet and understood two things: