Watched was both an excellent and painful book to read. Let me start by saying that the book is so much more than cyberbulling. It deals with incredibly dark topics, including rape and sexual blackmail of underage children/teenagers. That’s the premise of the story. While it’s not explicit in the sense that it doesn’t narrate any rape or sexual abuse happening, it’s mentioned often and is the underlying theme of the story. If that’s something you absolutely can’t stand to think about, then this book isn’t for you. That said, I feel like it’s an important read.
The book follows two characters – Jesse and Miranda. Jesse had been blackmailed by a man he calls “King” for a number of years, and part of his blackmail includes King allowing Jesse’s uncle to rape him and film it so that King can sell it to his clients. If Jesse doesn’t comply with King’s demands, King has threatened to kill Jesse’s mother and little sister.
What makes this even creepier (if that’s even possible) is the fact that King can see and hear everything. In the age we live in, with the internet and cell phones being so popular, King can hack into just about anything. He watches Jesse through computer cameras and listens to him through his cell phone. He knows where he lives, what he’s doing, what he’s saying, and who he’s with always. That’s beyond terrifying.
Jesse eventually gets a note from an anonymous stranger that says “I can help you” and contains a cellphone. After calling the phone, Jesse talks to Miranda, another one of King’s victims who is intent on saving as many of King’s victims as she can. Jesse and Miranda come up with a plan to catch and expose King, while keeping their families safe.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, considering how smart King is, and how much power he has in terms of knowing his way around the internet and his hacking abilities. I won’t say too much, but the reason I didn’t give the book five stars is because I felt like the ending was a little too convenient. It’s so outlandish that it seems so impossible that it would all fall into place so smoothly. That took away from the story a little bit for me, but otherwise, I felt like this book was incredibly powerful.
What really got me was the excerpt from the author at the end of the book. She says that she wrote the book based on a real case of a girl who committed suicide after being “capped” (as in, someone took a screen capture of her to use as blackmail) and cyber bullied. That breaks my heart that something like that is possible. The author states that the reason she wrote the story is to tell everyone to speak out against cyber bullying, and she provides some resources for readers to look at, which I appreciated.
Overall, a really powerful yet heartbreaking novel.