There have been two books this week that have reminded me a lot of my early teen years. Sarah Darer Littman's novel Want To Go Private? is an important and realistic look at internet predators - something most of our teens need to be aware of.
While I grew up in the stone ages apparently -not having the internet until my college years when it was more accessible, Littman's book is a look at what teens today face and how they think at the age of thirteen or fourteen.
Abby is smart- a straight A student with a lot going for her. But when she begins her freshman year of high school, she is lonely and depressed. Her best friend Faith has found another friend and they aren't as close as they once used to be. Even though Abby is aware of internet predators, she enjoys chatting with Luke, a guy she meets on ChezTeen, an internet chatting site. The two of them have many private conversations, and Abby begins to rely on Luke for his friendhsip and always being there for her. Deep down Abby must know what she is doing is wrong because she doesn't tell her friends about him, instead fabricating a story about dating a boy she met at the church camp she attended in the summer. When Abby has a fight with her parents about her grades, Luke suggests they run off together. And Abby decides to go for it.
You can imagine what happens next. Abby's parents involve the police to find their missing child. Her friends and sister try and think back to any clues or hints she left. When the police look at Abby's computer they are able to find out some information about "Luke."
There is a huge lesson to be learned in this book. Many teens have the attitude of "that could never happen to me." However, Abby was smart, too, yet she was vulnerable and easily taken in by someone who appeared to like her. This book does contain graphic content, so I would recommend it for older and more mature students. Yet, the message is so important that it is a book that needs to be read.
I can remember my freshman year of highschool and the need to fit in. The desire to have friends and be noticed by cute guys. Abby is a character many girls will be able to relate to. While the setting is a few decades after my own high school experience, Abby reminded me so much of what it was like to be fourteen again.
Right now I am busy teaching my upper elementary students some rules of internet safety and the need to keep your information private. While they seem to understand this concept and many can add information to our conversations about different stories they have heard or read about in the news, I am surprised by how many do continue to give out information on websites and have facebook accounts despite the fact that they are not old enough - at least legally- to have one.
Littman's book brings to light a crime that is relatively new because of the technology we now have available.