Written by Lori Weber
Published by Lorimer
Category: Junior/Teen Novel
Reviewed by Lorena Duran, Teacher Librarian
School District 40, New Westminster, BC
Picture Me is told from the points of view of three girls, Krista, the victim, Chelsea, the bully, and Tessa, the bystander. Krista is a smart, shy girl who moves to a new school where she is soon bullied. One day, she finds a photo taped to her locker. Chelsea has used Photoshop to make Krista look like a monster complete with a hateful caption. Krista has learned to detach herself emotionally, but Tessa wrestles Chelsea to the floor. This is the tipping point for Krista, who decides to stop going to school and develops an eating disorder. Although Picture Me is devoted to the lives of girls, the book is an easy read with a universal plotline that makes this story suitable for a wide audience.
The violence portrayed in this book is emotional and physical. All three girls have suffered traumatic events that led them to become a bully, be bullied, or be a defender. Krista is overweight because her family doesn’t provide a model for healthy eating. Chelsea is a complex character who has a tough exterior yet is vulnerable to predatory males. Since she lacks a role model at home, Chelsea fixates on sexy superstars and builds her self-esteem by enhancing her physical appearance. Although Tessa is strong and resilient, she has her own issues dealing with her father’s death in Afghanistan.
The universal themes of interpersonal relationships, socioeconomic status, gender roles, and bullying make it a good fit across the curriculum. All of the characters in this novel face significant socioeconomic and emotional challenges in their lives, including the parents. The reader can feel empathy for protagonists and antagonists alike and is left with a sense of compassion and understanding for others. The message is that the bully is not inherently cruel; instead, we need to provide girls with messages about positive ways to act and environments that make them feel safe. The novel is also about family relationships focusing on mothers. Krista’s mother is overworked, too tired to provide her daughter with healthy food until Krista experiences a medical crisis. Chelsea’s mother no longer talks to her children, being caught up in her own cycle of poverty and loneliness. Tessa’s mother is a young widow left to raise her two daughters alone.
Whether used as a read aloud in Literature Circles, or for reluctant readers, this engaging, contemporary novel provides rich opportunities for discussions about bullying, friendship, body image, and families. Uncomplicated in structure and length, yet engaging in its subject matter and varying points of view, it would be suitable for grades 7-12.