When 15-year-old Carolyn moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the junior class at Adams High School. A good student and natural athlete, she’s immediately welcomed by the school’s cliques. She’s even nominated to the homecoming court and begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a video of Carolyn and Shane making out is sent to everyone, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut, as Brooke and her best friend Gemma try to restore their popularity. Gossip and bullying hound Carolyn, who becomes increasingly private and isolated. When Shane and Brooke—now back together—confront Carolyn in the student parking lot, injuring her, it’s the last attack she can take.
Sarah Bannan’s deft use of the first person plural gives Weightless an emotional intensity and remarkable power that will send you flying through the pages and leave you reeling.
I was sent a copy of this book from the publisher to review and generally, I’m trying to avoid taking on anymore review books at the moment but this one really did sway me. I found the cover truly gorgeous and the blurb was intriguing enough to perk my ears.
This is the story of a school community in middle America that is jolted by the arrival of a new girl, Carolyn, and the tale of her time at the school over the course of a year and how social media, bullying and cliches all culminate to a dramatic moment in Carolyn’s life. It’s told from the point of view of a small group of girls that are generally on the periphery of the social scene and in the past tense. It’s an strange but enjoyable viewpoint because you really get a wider scope of what happens to all the characters from those that go unnoticed.
Weightless discusses lots of issues from mental health, cyber bullying to anorexia and we see how, with a drip-drip effect, small actions and moments can change the course of many lives in a reality short length of time. The book as a whole was engaging but I felt at times that the story was trying to tackle so many issues all at once that it never really gripped me and it seemed like that no one issues was completely tackled head-on. Many topics were discussed and hinted at but there wasn’t one sole focus at any one time.
The characters are well-painted and the slow evolution of the downfall of these people is fascinating to watch. It was particularly pleasing to see moments when life is working well for Carolyn and all the other characters and made the unravelling of all their lives all the more interesting. Weightless is a book that left me feeling uneasy because, through the narration, you feel almost part of community and somehow complicit in what happens through-out. It’s that unnerving feeling you have when a couple is arguing on a train and no one says anything; you’re involved by your lack of action.
Weightless was a complex book that looked at the idea of how a community can ruin itself by its own actions and through inaction you can be just as to blame as those wielding the words and weapons. At times it felt like there was an overload of issues tackled, rather than one main focus that was driving the story but overall I found it a good discussion book for teenagers about their roles in other lives. A good and steady read but it didn’t completely grip me at times.
Published by Bloomsbury Circus and is available online and bookshops now