Initially it was the cover of this book that first caught my eye, but then I found myself compelled to read it after feeling disturbed by the blurb. It is a short YA book (6,000 words), aimed at 15-16 year olds. Whilst my children are not yet in this age bracket, they have access to phones and laptops, and one of them has begun high school. This book’s subject matter is starting to bleep on our radar!
Like most middle-aged parents, I am navigating a technological world very different to the one I grew up in. Sure, we were were exposed to bullies, peer pressure and alcohol (my first drink was during a high school sleepover where we climbed out the window and scarpered to a neighbour’s house), but ‘cyberbullying’ wasn’t a thing back then. We weren’t at risk of having our mistakes splashed across social media to the amusement of everyone else. Digital footprint? Not in my day…
Written in a teenage first person voice, we see into Jenna’s state of mind as she tries to fit in with the cool kids, only to be sucked in and made an example of in the most humiliating way. Jenna is unable to speak to any adults about the bullying and worries what her family’s reaction will be when they see staged, almost naked, photos of her under the hashtag ‘jennaisaslagbitch’. She cannot cope and attempts suicide, but fortunately is found in time. From here, the message becomes one of hope. Jenna realises that she will make more mistakes in life and that she can’t just give up because of them. She is determined not to be intimidated by bullies any longer.
Our children have an amazing future ahead of them where almost anything is possible, but there can be terrible personal risks associated with that. Nadia L King’s book is a great tool that invites discussion and keeps the lines of communication open. Kids need to be able to embrace technology, but they also need to be aware of what can go wrong and how easily they can become a target of cyberbullying.
Books allow a reader to experience different perspectives on the world, and help in gaining empathy and understanding about situations others find themselves in. By reading Jenna’s Truth, a reader is able to place themselves in the position of either Jenna, the bystander, or the bully, hopefully reinforcing the message that cyberbullying is not okay – no matter where you find yourself in the scheme of things.
The teaching aids that accompany this book are designed for the Australian year 9 & 10 curriculum. However, parents may find some of them useful for open discussions at home. Even if you or your children don’t read this book, please let them know there are help lines they can access if they feel uncomfortable talking to you. There are many links to helplines at the end of the book.