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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The book is full of them to go along with the message that there are two sides to every story, and nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems.
    • Sara: Unapologetic mean girl who only cares about her own social status and enjoys stepping on others to get there? Or deeply-insecure teenage girl looking to fit in with others, even if it means losing her sense of self? The narrative implies the latter and ultimately confirms it at the end.
    • Brielle: Alpha Bitch who enjoys her popular-girl status and thrives on being the one to decide who's in and who's out? Or Lonely Rich Kid who desperately wants friends and will do anything to keep it that way, even if it means bullying a girl to death? Sara believes the latter by the end of the book, even if Brielle never shows true remorse for what she did.
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    • Emma: Shrinking Violet and Naïve Newcomer who, after previously being bullied, finally received positive attention from popular boys at her new school and got carried away? Or manipulative bitch who coasted on her good looks and new girl status to get and keep attention from her male classmates? Sara certainly thinks the latter, but the narrative also implies that Emma hooking up with Dylan was not an accident and may have involved some spite on her part.
    • Dylan: Jerk Jock and cheater who wanted the attention of both Emma and Sara without having to choose between them? Or confused teenage boy who felt pressured into a relationship with Sara and saw Emma as an easy way out?
  • Anvilicious: Bullying is wrong and your actions always have consequences. That message is outlined on pretty much every page of the novel.
  • Broken Base: The book itself has quite a lot of this. Some readers argue that Sara's behavior and self-centered attitude make her a very unlikeable protagonist, while others argue that's the point of the book. You aren't supposed to like Sara or her actions, you're supposed to understand what drove her to them.
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    • Other readers think the book is a great depiction of bullying as told from the bully's point of view, driving home the message that your actions, no matter the reason, can still have consequences.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • Knowing that Emma's parents filed a lawsuit against Brielle's Girl Posse and Tyler for bullying and statutory rape is satisfying. Sara's own lawyers admit that unless she and the others take a plea deal, they're going to lose the case owing to the amount of evidence and that Emma was a pretty white girl.
      • The crowner moment is when Tyler is crying on the stand. Whether or not they are Tears of Fear or Tears of Remorse, it feels like karma that he barely avoided jail time for taking advantage of a vulnerable girl.
    • When Sara's therapist asks an Armor-Piercing Question, Sara ends up Fainting. While fainting and nearly hitting her head is dangerous, it feels like Sara's own brain is calling her out for her role.
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    • Sara's own father calling her out for her Never My Fault mode during a lawyer visit. Hypocrite Has a Point; even if she wins the argument by pointing out he never taught her how to be more than a child, he's absolutely right.
    • Much later, after she accepts responsibility for what she did to Emma, Sara is forced to confront that her high school transcripts are shoddy and colleges won't accept them unless she pursues an extracurricular. She decides to atone for what she did by creating a website writing letters to people who can no longer receive them. Reality Ensues is a bitch.
    • Brielle's parents ultimately depriving her of what she wants: power over the school. They pull her out when the media attention grows to harassment levels, assign her to private tutoring and confine her to the house except for mandated lawyer visits. When Brielle tries to complain to Sara in between lawyer visits, they tell her to shut up and she complies. While it may be pragmatically protecting her because she's their daughter, they aren't letting her off the hook. Even after the trial, it's implied she's no longer allowed to talk to Sara.
    • Fridge catharsis: Sara believes that Brielle was a Karma Houdini and won't face meaningful punishment. That may not be true if Brielle attends an in-person college in the states as opposed to online classes; thanks to the case entering national media, everyone knows she was the primary instigator for Emma's suicide and her parents can't protect her forever. Her Karma Houdini Warranty is coming, even if Sara won't see it. Online classes may put a crimp in her bullying style since it's harder to bully adults online versus kids.
  • Cry for the Devil: Some readers can feel this way towards Sara and Brielle, particularly when reading about the problems in the girls' personal lives.
  • It Was His Sled: Emma commits suicide as a result of being bullied and harassed, and Sara and her friends are charged criminally in connection with her death.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Sara could certainly qualify. While her treatment of Emma was in no way right, she is not without problems of her own, of which include divorced parents, a Disappeared Dad, and the fact that the whole town openly hates her for what she and her friends did. Combine this with her history of being a lonely Shrinking Violet until she met Brielle (who makes matters worse when she starts to ignore her in favor of another girl) and started dating Dylan (who ultimately cheats on her and dumps her for someone else), and it's easy to see why Sara ended up doing a lot of the stuff she did.
  • Les Yay: Briefly invoked by Emma when she uses it as the reason Sara and Brielle spend so much time together. It was not well received.
  • Moe: Sara's little brothers, Tommy and Alex, especially when Sara talks about how much she loves them throughout the book and how guilty she feels when Tommy is bullied at summer camp because of what she did.
  • Moral Event Horizon: If Sara and Brielle didn't already cross it in their treatment of Emma that drove her to suicide, Brielle having everyone over her house to watch the news reports and laugh at her death certainly did.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Emma's suicide, in which she faked being sick to stay home from school, waited until her mother and stepfather went to work, and used a heavy-duty extension cord to hang herself from the garage ceiling. On a meta level, the author clearly said she based the novel on the events surrounding the suicide of high school student Phoebe Prince, meaning that situations like this have actually happened in real life.
    • Imagining the events from the perspective of Sara's mother can also qualify. As a single mother of three children, she already has a lot on her plate to begin with. Then, her daughter's classmate commits suicide because of bullying, and she discovers that not only was her daughter involved in said bullying, but a primary instigator as well. Now her child is facing criminal charges and possible jail time, and she's scrambling to do everything in her power to prevent that from happening. It's every parent's worst nightmare.
  • Pet the Dog: Despite everything Sara has done to Emma, she has a lot of love for her little brothers, and her interactions with them provide a lot of light-hearted moments in an otherwise depressing story.
  • Rooting for the Empire: The reason the book had such a mixed response was because some people felt that readers were supposed to be okay with everything Sara did, despite the author clearly stating otherwise.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Sara and Dylan's relationship as a whole. They mostly interact through mutual friends until Dylan randomly kisses Sara during a night out and they begin dating. Despite Sara's inner monologues of how much she loves Dylan and how good they are together, they appear to have little in common and no real connection besides social status. Even after they have sex for the first time, Sara later realizes her main motivation for doing so was so Brielle would have more respect for her.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Seeing Emma cry during the flashbacks after being bullied can be hard to read, especially when as the reader, we already know what that will lead to.
    • Sara's closing statement at the trial and apology to Emma's parents. She knows she can't undo what she said or did, but vows that she won't forget the consequences of her actions.
    • At the end of the novel, Sara decides to create a website where visitors can write letters to people they will never see again as part of a project for her college applications. She herself writes a letter to Brielle apologizing for not stopping her before things escalated, as well as one to Emma apologizing for everything she did. The book ends with these letters.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Despite its unique storyline, some people feel that because Sara did not feel remorse for her actions until the very end, the book ultimately fell short of what it was trying to do.
  • The Woobie: Emma. Dear god, poor Emma. She started off as a New Transfer Student whose parents are divorced and had has had to move several times due to her stepfather's career in the military. She tried to make friends and fit in at her new school, but after dating a few different guys (some of whom already had girlfriends), was horrendously bullied and branded a slut. While it's true that she made some big mistakes in the way she handled relationships, including dating a boy who already had a long-term girlfriend, kissing Dylan while he was still with Sara, and sleeping with another guy behind his back, she honestly tried to make amends for her wrongdoings - only to have it thrown back in her face. Coupled with the fact that she had experienced bullying at several of her prior schools, and it's hard not to feel saddened by what ultimately drove her to commit suicide a month before her seventeenth birthday.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Sara can come across this way sometimes before her Character Development. She's being ostracized for her role in the bullying and harassment that caused Emma to kill herself, but the manner in which she speaks about it for most of the book can make her very unlikeable to some readers.
  • What an Idiot!: There wouldn't have been nearly as much evidence for a court case if Sara and Brielle hadn't used social media to further harass Emma. From making fake profiles on Facebook and Twitter to leaving nasty comments on her wall, they pretty much asked to be implicated as Emma's primary bullies.
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