As the saying goes, there are always two sides to every story. Sometimes each side is clearly defined, leaving no room for misinterpretation. At other times, one side can appear clear, while the other is murky and difficult to decipher. Or it could be that the murky side actually has hidden depths that aren’t apparent on the surface but make sense once they are known. This is the case with Eve Ainsworth’s debut teen novel (she has written another fiction book for adults) 7 Days, where the two main characters- the bully and the target- are also both victims.
Kez Walker is beautiful, popular and appears to have it all. She is dating one of the most popular guys in school, Lyn, and is one of the few kids at school who doesn’t live in the underprivileged estate known as the Mac. But despite outward appearances, Kez’s life is far from perfect. Her father has been unemployed for years and has changed from the loving father he once was into something a lot more menacing. Even though they still have their comfortable, picket-fence house and appear to be ‘normal’, Kez feels safer in the towering block housing of the Mac, with its tiny shoebox apartments and leery residents.
On the other side of the spectrum is Jess Pearson. She lives with her hardworking mother and little sister Hollie in one of the Mac’s tiny apartments, and wishes that she could be as popular and pretty as the other girls at school. Instead, she struggles with her ballooning weight, has multiple self-esteem issues and only knows one person- a self-confessed nerd himself- who she can call a friend.
She also has to deal daily with the bullying that Kez dishes at her. This unfortunately comes in the form of verbal, cyber, emotional and sometimes even physical abuse, and Jess feels powerless to stop it.
While some of the other girls at school try to intervene (or at least tell Kez to tone it down a bit), Kez’s loathing of poor Jess stems from Jess’ inability to defend herself, choosing to cower and show weakness rather than fight back. This behaviour imitates the actions of Kez’s mother within their family situation, and infuriates Kez to the point that she pushes Jess further and further, hoping that she will crack, hit back and stand up to Kez- much in the way that she wishes her mother would stand up to her father.
With the bullying becoming worse, Jess begins to dread going to school. But then she receives some support from an old friend, who interestingly enough is Lyn, Kez’s boyfriend. With Lyn attempting to mediate, Kez finds new ammunition against Jess and becomes even nastier. Within a week- 7 days- the situation escalates, then a dramatic turn of events occurs, putting several lives in danger…
This novel deals with the gritty and painful issues of bullying, told from the perspectives of the tormentor and the target- both victims in their own right. While Kez’s behaviour is inexcusable, we can also see that she is spurred on by the manipulation of ‘friends’ and, ironically, a fierce disgust against people who don’t stand up against bullying actions. In her own warped way, it appears that she is trying to help Jess fight back, but to everyone else, her actions obviously don’t translate in that way. Each day’s narrative is told from the perspective of both Jess and Kez, so readers are able to see how one person’s idea of the day’s events differ from those of the other. This allows each of their character traits to shine through, and help readers relate to, and empathise with, each girl, despite what they may have done. Heartbreaking in its reality, this novel is an ideal read for any person who wants to look at the issues of bullying from varying perspectives.