- Want to Go Private
Despite having a supportive best friend, Faith, Abby is really insecure about entering high school. She prefers her virtual life at ChezTeen.com, where her avatar doesn’t have to worry about what she’s wearing or whether her hair and makeup are just right. As Faith embraces high school activities and makes new friends, Abby makes a friend online who calls himself Luke and claims to be twenty-seven. Luke supports her when she’s feeling insecure or misunderstood, but he also asks her to undress for him on the webcam while he masturbates. When her parents ground her for a bad grade, Luke suggests they go away together for a few days, a plan to which she readily agrees. She’s convinced that he loves her, but it turns out he’s a thirty-two-year-old sexual predator who has been posting pictures of her, including sex tapes of her losing her virginity to him, on child pornography sites. As agenda-based fiction, the story clearly aims to show how even smart kids who’ve heard all the warnings can still be successfully groomed by sexual predators. However, [End Page 91] Abby isn’t as sympathetic as she needs to be for readers to really identify with her to the point where they understand their own vulnerability, and her motives are never effectively conveyed. She’s got a real boy who likes her, a helpful best friend that she lies to, and a sister who presents an alternate site of identification and says the things that readers will likely be thinking about how stupid Abby’s being; her folly seems calculated to get her into trouble as fast as possible without regards to credibility, and the book’s extreme version of the consequences only undercuts its believability. While the subject matter is undeniably important, this treatment is more likely to convince readers of their imperviousness to such harm rather than caution them to take internet predation seriously.