SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie

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SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Em Richardson
Reviewed by Em Richardson
Summary: A fun read for anyone in their early teens who enjoys thrillers, or wants an introduction to the genre, featuring some important messages about the hurt cyberbullying can cause.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: August 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1471122231

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Carey and Amelia are best friends, so both are naturally very upset when SweetFreak, a malicious online account, begins to abuse Amelia. To make matters worse, the police soon find evidence that Carey was the one who sent the messages. Soon everyone, even Amelia, is convinced of Carey's guilt. Only her sister, Poppy, accepts her innocence. When the online threats spill over into real life, Carey is determined to discover who is framing her.

I'd like to start by saying this is definitely a book for younger teens, something which is reflected in the writing, dialogue and characters of the novel. As a result, there are some criticisms older readers would make that may escape the book's actual target audience, but I feel they should still be referenced over the course of a constructive review.

In terms of the characters, there are some obvious stereotypes here, but all of them serve their purpose in the novel's narrative. Carey, the protagonist, is the typical angsty teen, convinced that no one understands her as well as her best friend, hence the value she places on her friendship with Amelia. Amelia is the opposite of Carey in many ways- spoiled, rich and boy-crazy, but unhappy at home, unlike Carey, who seems close with her Mother and siblings. Said siblings fulfil another stereotype found in fictional families- Jamie is the sweet and innocent younger brother, while Poppy is the oldest sibling, with a sense of superiority over her siblings that sometimes contrasts with her desire to care for and protect them. Finally, there's Taylor, a handsome boy who isn't always sincere about his feelings towards girls, and who, predictably, is a big source of conflict between Carey and Amelia. All of this being said, I don't want to suggest the stereotypical characters are necessarily a bad thing; it's just that there isn't a great deal of character development in the novel- the characters are simply here to fulfil their various roles in the narrative.

One thing McKenzie can be applauded for is the fact the novel deals with the issue of cyberbullying, showing the extreme hurt it can cause, in a way that can be understood by a young audience. Online abuse is certainly a relevant issue in today's society, and one that effects young people, so it's refreshing to see a novel for teens address the issue as such a central plot point. If nothing else, young readers will come away from the novel with the knowledge that words can hurt, even if they are typed rather than spoken - a vital lesson in a world that often seems to tell us anyone with a social media account should just accept harsh criticism from strangers.

With regards to the actual plot, I found the middle of SweetFreak extremely quick reading, as the mystery intensified and I wanted to find out who was responsible for the malicious messages. Younger teens might also be interested in some of the subplots, like Carey's romantic relationships, but older readers are more likely to notice that Carey and the dramas in her life are very stereotypical of a teenage girl. Rather than seeming like a realistic teenager, Carey often seems like the embodiment of the things adults think all teenagers must enjoy, with her trips to Nando's and constant texting. Of course, the most important part of the plot is the conclusion, when the mystery is finally resolved. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that I guessed the culprit, and felt the ending was a little flat as a result. That being said, it is important to remember that this may not be the case for the book's target audience of younger teens.

I'd suggest that anyone who enjoyed SweetFreak might also enjoy Undone by Cat Clarke, another book for teens that addresses the hurt caused by cyberbullying. We also have a review of McKenzie's Split Second.

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Buy SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie at Amazon.com.


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