Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey
Fremantle Press, 2016. ISBN 9781925163582
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Sexual assault, Crime, Social media, Cyberbullying. At a Friday night party in their small country town south of Perth, some of the year ten friends get horribly drunk and one girl, Annie has pictures of her naked body shared on snapchat. Her best friend, Jazz is appalled and thinks back wondering why she had not protected her friend. Two boys have written inflammatory things over her body and admit to having a bit of fun but when a video emerges showing that the boys have digitally raped her and Jazz is complicit in this, actually sexually assaulting her friend, then the police are involved.
Rejected by her parents she goes to stay with her aunt in Perth to await the court case, but Annie's pictures go viral within the community and beyond, eliciting appalling comments from those who see them. Annie distraught about her betrayal and not able to cope with the cyberbullying, tries to kill herself, and during the court case her life support is turned off.
This is a cautionary tale like no other. The shock of what happened at the party will jolt the hardiest of readers, and force them to think about how they would have behaved in similar circumstances. Despite Jazz's years of medical appointments and efforts to reform her life, the impact of her dealings with Annie is never far from her thoughts.
McCaffrey details the effects on everyone's life: Jazz's parents, aunt and uncle, the two boys, Annie's family and the community. The story forces the reader to think about some of the more unsavoury aspects of our society: domestic violence, the impact of video games, sexual assault, women's refuges, attitudes to women and cyberbullying. Each plays a part in this tale and information is infused within the story.
The last part of the book concerns Jazz's first year at uni where she is harassed by one of her lecturers, a man she finds out later, who is well known for his sexualised behaviour towards first year female students. Although I felt this was an unnecessary addition it does give a neat contrast to what has gone on before and again the reader is put into the position of asking themselves what they would have done.
McCaffrey has written a book that will be hugely popular, gaining an audience through word of mouth, readers taking to heart this cautionary tale comparing it with the 'what might have been' in their own lives and questioning the role of social media in their lives.