Want to Go Private? by Sarah Littman

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.”

I’m not sure if I can express how much I loved this book. Years ago I read a true account of a girl who’d met her online boyfriend…she’d lived to tell about it, I was fascinated and riveted then, a feat often not achievable when I read a non-fiction book. Want to Go Private? captured those same feelings as that one did.

Before we get into the review, let me tell you a little story. When I was growing up I would frequent chat rooms and forums, many of which would have older men “creeping” around and harassing young girls. Some didn’t hide their age (or at least didn’t pretend to be teens), because they thought it appealed to the younger girls. There was one such man who was in his 40s, (I was 12 when I first joined this certain forum) he was fascinated by me. I blocked him after he tried talking to me about coming to see him during our first ever talk, I was grossed out by the fact this man older than my parents wanted me. Fast forward about three years, I learned through a mutual friend that he regulary “visiting” with one of the other girls from the boards, who happened to be about a year younger than me. Her mother was supposedly ok with this arrangement. I was horrified, disgusted, etc. As far as I know, nothing bad happened to her. Online privacy/safety was discussed, but not nearly to the depth it is now. If I knew what I know now, I likely would’ve told someone/reported him, but that’s the past, so not much I can do now. There are many more stories I could tell you all about this subject, but that is one of the ones that stuck out to me as I was reading this book.

While reading this book, I was slightly appalled by how this girl didn’t see how ridiculous his claims were. She even mentioned having taken Internet Safety courses! At the same time, she’s young and even as adults we can get swept away with the sweet words we hear from a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, so it is definitely believeable!

When I read the synopsis I was incredibly excited to read this book, as I began reading it I was even more so. From the synopsis I figured it would go almost immediately into the search for Abby. Instead we get the build-up, we get to read her chat conversations with Luke, we are able to see the other interactions between the characters as their relationship esclates. I had kind of feared that I’d be reading a book about a search for a girl that I had no real attachment to, instead, I felt as if Abby easily could’ve been one of my teenage friends from the past who had gone missing. In other words, I was invested.

Once she goes missing, the chapters begin alternating amongst the other teen characters so you are able to see how much they care about Abby, are worried about her, and just their thoughts on the whole situation. I felt the reactions of the different people Abby knew were very realistic, from the best friend who was getting distant to the boy who copied her math homework.

Want to Go Private? manages to tell of a very real threat without making it seem too preachy. It’s done beautifully from page one until the ending. I believe this should be a must-read, especially for teens. That said there are some mature scenes in the book, it’s about what you would expect from a book of a subject matter like this.

While the statistics are frightening. A website has been set up to go along with this book with information on those stats, internet safety tips, and more. Chezteen.com. I personally love how they’ve done this, since this is the “website” that the characters frequently used in the book to chat online.

Want to Go Private? is in stores this week, I strongly encourage you all to read it! I received my copy from the publisher, Scholastic, in exchange for my honest review.


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