Want To Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman
Release Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: ARC from Publisher
Reading level: Young Adult
Abby and Luke chat online. They've never met. But they are going to. Soon.
Abby is starting high school—it should be exciting, so why doesn't she care? Everyone tells her to "make an effort," but why can't she just be herself? Abby quickly feels like she's losing a grip on her once-happy life. The only thing she cares about anymore is talking to Luke, a guy she met online, who understands. It feels dangerous and yet good to chat with Luke—he is her secret, and she's his. Then Luke asks her to meet him, and she does. But Luke isn't who he says he is. When Abby goes missing, everyone is left to put together the pieces. If they don't, they'll never see Abby again.
-- from Goodreads.com
Want To Go Private was an absolutely haunting, cautionary read. It was terrifying in its reality and deeply saddening. We follow Abby, a girl who has so much going for her but has the same feelings many teens do -- that no one really understands her or what she goes through on a daily basis. She's aching inside to find belonging in the world and unfortunately that is exactly the sort of vulnerability that predators seek to exploit.
Online she meets Luke who seems like a dream come true. He arrives on the scene with a bit of mystery that makes me him irresistable to Abby. And slowly, through gentle persuasion and a lot of focused attention, Luke draws Abby out of her comfort zone and well past the point of no return before she really stops to think.
Reading all of this from her point of view, seeing her choose to go against everything she knew about internet safety, was chilling. As a parent I have to say it made me decide to always keep a close eye on my daughter's internet usage not to mention being sure to stay in a steady, stable relationship with her so that I will be able to pick up on the clues to any unhappiness that might lead her down this path herself.
I thought it was brilliant of the author to switch from Abby's point of view to that of her friends and sister during the time she is missing. It gives the reader such great insight into just exactly what the people left behind go through. The fear and heart ache was so realistic I almost had to put the book down a few times to distance myself from all the emotions.
The one thing I have to fault the book for was a scene in which certain events of a sexual nature take place via web cam in a more graphic way than I felt was really necessary to get the point of the book across. The entire book was a shock, it did not need that to make it more hard-hitting. This explicitness detracts from the message and side-tracks the story toward sensationalizing a tragic moment of poor judgment and exploitation. Thankfully only briefly.
Overall the book has a great message cushioned in excellent writing and very realistic characters and situations. I'm impressed with Ms. Littman for tackling this scary and important topic and seeing it through to the very end. It could have faded to black to avoid causing too much of a controversial ripple but instead Ms. Littman she spells out the aftermath and the affects on everyone in Abby's life.