The moment I closed this book, I want to strangle Macie Merrik and all the likes of her.
It was in 2015 when I got absorbed in reading YA books about bullying that resulted to self-harm and suicide. I read every Goodreads recommendation that I could find and tried to imagine what sort of self-satisfaction these bullies get in bringing their poor target over the edge. How come they’re getting away with this? How come this is not okay but it’s happening every day?
I Swear is one of the books that made my TBR list some 4 years ago. At the time, it felt like a classic – a teenager (Leslie Gaitlin) killed herself because of the unrelenting bullying she received the past 3 years of her school girl life. Parents are pressing charges so who’s to blame when the bullying goes too far?
Written in four POVs
The book is written in alternating POVs of Beth, Katherine, Jillian, and Jake. Too bad we won’t be able to see what’s in the ringleader, Macie Merrik’s mind, which I think would be full of garbage and evil things that even writing them down here would be a mortal sin. Each of them has their own reasons for participating in Leslie’s well-orchestrated death.
Beth. I wanted to be disgusted in her. She’s a huge disgrace to our name. And hated myself for a moment, because somehow I understood where she was coming from. Look, she’s a lesbian who took a great liking for Leslie. But Leslie just can’t like her back, the way she needed Leslie to. It was her fear of people finding out about her sexuality that made her do the awful things she did. Not many people would understand the pressure she was in – she hasn’t even come out yet. What would her gymnast friends say? How would her mom’s bible study friends react if they learn that she likes people who are in the same side of the fence?
Katherine. In all of them, Katherine appears to be the most sensible girl. She knows how to play the game, and in that she did well. To be fair, she didn’t need Macie’s familial influence to ace the crown in every pageant she competes in – she was described as poised to the point of being regal. But it was either she’s going to be Macie’s competition which no one actually wants to be, or she joins the bandwagon. Clearly, it was the choice of doing what’s right and what’s easy.
Jillian. Oh, Jillian, how could you have turned your back to your friend? But when Jillian said she sticks with Macie because the ice queen can make her feel relevant, I felt that. Because there really are people who can make you feel good about yourself and you’d believe them more than your closest friends, sometimes even more than yourself. It’s like getting that coveted “yes” from Simon Cowell, or maybe when Gordon Ramsay approves the steamed plain rice you just made. Yes, Jillian gets this relevance from Macie, and I also felt its realness.
Jake. I love Jake. I love him so much it hurts to imagine him crying in the rain looking at Leslie from the other side of the door. His pain felt so real, and I cried with him. He was the only person who cared about Leslie the most. And this most probably the reason why Macie likes him too. And the ultimate reason why Macie can never have him.
I don’t want to talk about Macie. But I should. She feeds in people’s fears and their needs and used them to make things happen for her. People like Macie is dangerous and has a special place in hell. That, I am sure of.
But then again, no matter what the reason each one of them had, it will never be enough to justify what they did. Sometimes we blame what goes on within us to make reasons somewhat acceptable, but most of the time, it just doesn’t make no sense even more. Bullying is bullying. And it’s so sad that someone has to be pushed over the edge before anyone realizes how dark their souls are.
I love this book, maybe more than I thought I should when I first heard about it four years ago. The only thing I didn’t like about it is the fact that there really are coward people like Leslie’s parents, and that’s why people like Macie’s dad exist. And maybe Macie was right. Leslie needed professional help. She experienced severe psychological abuse in Macie’s hands.