Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review: Want to go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman

SUMMARY: Abby and Luke chat online. They've never met. But they are going to. Soon.

Abby is starting high school—it should be exciting, so why doesn't she care? Everyone tells her to "make an effort," but why can't she just be herself? Abby quickly feels like she's losing a grip on her once-happy life. The only thing she cares about anymore is talking to Luke, a guy she met online, who understands. It feels dangerous and yet good to chat with Luke—he is her secret, and she's his. Then Luke asks her to meet him, and she does. But Luke isn't who he says he is. When Abby goes missing, everyone is left to put together the pieces. If they don't, they'll never see Abby again.


The Short Version:
Gutting and intense, Want to go Private? delves unflinchingly into the world of online predators. Though Abby seemed a little too conveniently naïve at times, the full scope and ease with which she finds herself in this situation is well understood and gripping to read. With a well thought out plot and overall good execution, this is definitely one that will make readers think while still throwing them into a fictional world.

The Extended Version:
Abby is mature and smart, but holds a fear of the change that comes with starting high school that any reader can understand. Her feelings of being alone while her best friend thrives in high school come through strongly, in a way that isn’t simply for a lack of trying on her part. The way she ends up meeting Luke, and the progression from there, has an overall steady course and the way it changes her is realistic and smoothly handled. Though Abby did seem too naïve in regards to some things, particularly sex related, given her age, and at times she came across as reverting back to a little kid rather than a freshman, just how in over her head she actually had become was enough to overshadow this pitfall.

Abby’s best friend, Faith, has a big role in the book while still being the background, especially given the way she changes when high school starts while Abby seems to stay somewhat stagnant. Their rift is made worse by Luke’s presence in Abby’s life, saying all the right things to lure her in and make her feel like she actually has someone to confide in and who understands her. This single aspect is the biggest factor in everything related to Luke as a predator, and it is perfectly handled and weaved in so smoothly even readers won’t notice right away just how scripted on his end it actually is.

Most notable about this book is just how well Littman handles the public ideals towards online predators. While Abby’s motivations were easy to understand, and the reader was there every step of the way, even as things were amped up and Abby wasn’t comfortable, the reasons she continued with it and even let things go further were completely understandable while they were happening. And yet, this is one that as a reader, I kept drifting back to thinking what an idiot she is, and that element really makes this book stand out. Inexplicable unless actually in the situation, Littman has definitely cast a much needed light on the drives behind the victims for this one beyond simply being stupid.

Overall, the plot is well paced and well executed, and leaves readers in a good place at the end while staying true to the content and nature of the book. Though the book did admittedly turn too after school special for this reader, it still leaves a good impression overall. Without making excuses for Abby’s behavior, but also not simply ignoring it because of everything that happens, Littman navigates a range of results and situations that keep the realistic nature of this book high.

The writing is solid, giving a good voice to Abby and mixing in her thoughts easily throughout the dialogue and action. Descriptive in most places, and unafraid to include the rougher content that comes with this territory, there is definitely a high emotional element to this one. Add in a raw intensity and constant sense of foreboding, and Want to go Private? will put readers through the wringer.

Source: ARC received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult 
Hardcover: 336 pages 
Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 1, 2011)


  1. It's great that this one was such a good read. I do hate when characters are too naive but I think some people are really like that. Thanks for the great review!

  2. I def want to read this one. Love the review :)

  3. This seems so good. Great review! I'll have to add it to my Goodreads TBR pile...

  4. I haven't heard of this book before, but after seeing your review I definitely want to read it!

    Such a relevant and important topic, and one that I haven't seen done before in YA lit.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Erin @ Read Real Reviews