BOOK REVIEW (Feb 2015): 7 Days by Eve Ainsworth

I know I don’t tend to review books very often. I mean, I read a lot and I love a lot of the books I read, but I never seem to get around to putting my thoughts into a post. But then sometimes a book comes along that speaks to me in such a way that I can’t NOT review it. And ‘7 Days’ is one of those special books.

As you will already know from my previous reviews, they tend to be partly about the book and partly about why I connected with them so strongly. I’ve written about being a weirdo and being a geek. And now I’m going to write about being bullied.

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A week can change everything.

Beautiful and popular, Kez is a bully who doesn’t care who she hurts.

Overweight and awkward, Jess is an easy target.

But then Jess discovers someone who will stand up for her.

The problem?

He’s Kez’s boyfriend.

Things are about to get nasty.

‘7 Days’ is such a fascinating, engaging story because it looks at both sides. You get every event from the point of view of the victim AND the bully. And it takes place over the course of a week, because quite often, something that has been simmering for a while can suddenly gain pace and things come to a head incredibly quickly. Like something happens, a spark, and then the fuse is lit.

I guess I was a bit of a Jess when I was younger. I wasn’t *that* overweight but then I don’t think Jess really is either. It’s all relative. I went to an all girls’ school which was full of pretty, skinny, smart, rich girls. Seriously, they seemed to have it all. I was odd-looking, had a weird idea of fashion, liked old music, and was more interested in books than anything else- all the things that seem to make me “cool” these days! But back then, I stood out for all the wrong reasons.

At home things weren’t great either. My Mum was struggling with her ME at the time so we were a single income household, although I think that made me lucky in the respect that my Mum was always there for me; she was my best friend (she still is). But we didn’t have a big house in a fancy neighbourhood, I certainly didn’t have the money to flash about on designer clothes and make-up.

BUT I did have a group of friends. We’d been together since the first year, and I always knew I was on the bottom rung of the ladder. It bothered me a little, but I just accepted that this was my place. But then Year 9 came along. Nothing exceptionally bad happened. But something seemed to shift. I was “Monkey Baby”, a nickname which makes people laugh, but actually felt like a punch in the stomach every single time they shouted it across the classroom. I was the subject of every joke, every dig, every snide comment. I’m so glad we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter back then because the nasty little notes were bad enough. Eventually, these girls who were meant to be my friends actually made me question my desire to even be on this planet. I tried to walk away, find new friends. They tried to lure me back and when I resisted, they tried to turn my new friends against me. Because I was vital to the social hierarchy of the group. You can’t have a top dog without a person for them to step on.

They weren’t bad people. I don’t hate them. And this is why. ‘7 Days’ shows us the truth behind the bully. Kez sees a weakness in Jess, a weakness which mirrors a problem in her own home life. My weakness mirrored my main bully’s weakness. She didn’t have everything together. Her family wasn’t as well-off as the other girls’ either. She had a severely disabled brother. She was a bit weird too (I mean, she spent most of our break-times in Year 7 practising dressage on an imaginary horse…). But something made her stronger than me. I don’t know what that was. When it was just me and her, everything could be great. But add others into the mix and it was all a show of “Look! I’m ok. In fact, I’m better than ok because at least I’m not this girl right here! Look at this loser! Look at her because at least then you’re not looking at me…”

I wish I’d had a book like ‘7 Days’ to read back then. Because even when your Mum tells you that you’re beautiful (like Jess’ Mum does and like my Mum did), you can’t see it. Because you can’t imagine that anyone else has ever or could ever feel as sick and as tired and as worthless as you do every single day. Because it took me another FIFTEEN YEARS, and several more destructive friendships, to realise that my “friends” weren’t as confident and together as they made out. Because a confident and together person doesn’t need to break someone down to make them feel better.

‘7 Days’ is such a powerful and wonderful book and I’m glad that it is out there. Eve deals with both sides of the story with equal understanding, so you can’t simply hate Kez for being a bully and you can’t love Jess purely because she is the victim. Both are *people*, with their good attributes as well as their bad. And while ‘7 Days’ is a hard-hitting read, I’m left with such a feeling of joy and hope. That Jess and Kez and those who read and identify with this book can go on to become strong and caring young women. Because you know, despite everything, that’s what I did.

Eve is all sorts of lovely and you can follow her on Twitter: @EveAinsworth

‘7 Days’ is available now, published by Scholastic, so if you haven’t got it already, sort it out yeah?

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