Carolyn, a gifted student & athlete, moves from New Jersey to Alabama and shakes things up at the cliquey school. As the new girl, everyone is interested in her and she is immediately welcomed into the popular group. That is until a video of her making out with the on again/off again boyfriend of the queen bee surfaces, and begins circulating. Carolyn’s social status immediately plummets and she’s subjected to gossip and bullying from all sides, retreating inwards and becoming more private. It all comes to a head when a confrontation in the school parking lot turns ugly and it’s the last straw.
This was an uncomfortable book for me to get through. I feel very strongly about anti-bullying so while it was interesting, it was also a tough read for me. The plot itself is not a unique one, whether in fiction or reality, which is the sad part. Too many times we have heard stories about photos or videos getting circulated and the girl gets slut-shamed but the guy gets a pat on the back. The difference with Weightless is the intentional use of the “we” from the narrator. The unnamed storyteller uses the first person plural in a way that makes the reader feel like they are an active participant in what’s happening with Carolyn. Striking.
That being said, being roped into the same boat as these very unlikable characters contributed to my uncomfortable feelings on it. Everybody is not just interested in the new girl, but obsessed. They analyze what she’s wearing, what she’s doing, who she’s talking to. There is also an interesting juxtaposition where the Alabama kids have a strong focus on religion and church, yet they all behave in such horrible ways. As the reader, you’re witnessing the popular kids get rid of the new girl from their clique, you’re watching others, wannabes, try to get in with the cool group by shunning the new girl, and others are too scared to say anything and just watch it all happen.
Weightless is a startling and uncomfortable read, but absolutely compelling and eye-opening in this day and age where photos and videos are shared with everyone in mere seconds. It made me realize just how glad I am to have gone through high school before social media was around and our biggest “social” form of chatting was ICQ or MSN messenger on a computer at home.