Brin Friesen's debut novel, Sic, is a harsh look at the reality of the bullying that takes place in schools everywhere. Through the eyes of younger Jasper Finch, one of the bullied, we see the complete desperation and anxiety some children face when going to school each day where they are forced to interact with their tormentors. While I'd like to think that bullying doesn't ever get as far as it did in this book, I'm sure it really does. Otherwise we wouldn't have school shootings and teen suicide, both of which are addressed in this novel.
Friesen's book really made me think, but it was incredibly uncomfortable to read. First, because I was one of the mean girls in elementary school so it pained me to read about the girls (and boys) like me who relentlessly taunted the less popular children. Back then I thought it was hilarious, but now when I think about my behavior between ages 10 and 12 I feel terrible. At one point in the book, Finch is kicked in the shins by one of the mean girls and I literally cringed because I cannot even count the number of times I kicked little boys in the shins back in elementary school.
Later, the book became easier for me to read because I understood Finch's anxiety upon entering high school. Right before I began middle school my family moved to a new town. And then moved again just before my high school years, so I know longer had the luxury of being one of the mean girls. I didn't fit in and did my best to be invisible during those years. Unfortunately for Finch, he wasn't able to be invisible because he moved up to high school with the same people who had beat him up and hated him in elementary school.
This book is very "Lord of the Flies," only worse, because it's all happening in a place where children are expected to feel safe and are under the eye of protecting adults. It's definitely worth reading and will really make you think, but it will also make you cringe and squirm. Some of the fight scenes are particularly brutal and reading about children talking so much about sex was hard for me to read. I want to believe all children are innocent and pure, but I know that's just not the case. As I've mentioned, this book made me think back to my own childhood - many times - and no matter how much I tried to debunk it, saying children don't do this or children don't do that, I knew, from my own experience, that this really was how (some) children act. I think often children are worse than adults when it comes to fowl language and talking about sex, and that really comes through in this novel.
I don't recommend this book if you're looking for something light and cheery. This is definitely not a pick-me-up type book. It feels like it is at one point toward the end, when you're cheering for Jasper Finch and you'll think, "Yes! Let's end on a high note! I knew this was leading to a happy ending!" But then, just as with real life, Jasper (and the reader) are only able to revel in the glory for a short time before the joy of it fades and we're plunged back into reality. The last section of the book makes the other two parts worth reading, so definitely keep going even if it feels a little slow in the middle. You won't regret it.