Everyone should read this book. I don’t care if you want to, you should read it.
Public shaming on the internet can be a traumatic experience for people of all ages, race, gender, and socio-economic status. In If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, the main character Winter Halperin is a rule-following National Spelling Bee Champion who will be attending a prestigious college in the upcoming school year. Her entire world falls apart when she carelessly makes a racist comment that she didn’t realize was offensive, and posts it for her one-hundred followers on social media. In less than one night her post blows up, destroying Winter’s public image and hopes for the near future. She then struggles for the rest of the book to reclaim her image, and exact revenge on the reporter she blames for all that has happened to her.
I really liked this book, but I also hated it. A lot of scenes made me uncomfortable, which was exactly what the writer was trying to convey. The main problem I had however, was the main character. Winter Halperin is an ignorant, narcissistic character, who just never seemed to realize that what she said was wrong, or that she should apologize. I was getting tired of reading about her making excuses, or putting the blame on other people, and it wasn’t until the final chapters where I actually started to like her. On the flip side however, all those things added to the moral of the story. And I did actually like a lot of the other characters, such as Corey, Mackler, and Abe. I even started to like some of the people at Revibe, the reputation rehabilitation center Winter goes to as a last resort in order to not just fix her image but fix her.
What I especially love about this book, enough to make me forgive the unlikeable main character, was how much it made me think. Was Winter really racist, or was she just saying what society had led her to believe? And did she really deserve all the backlash that she got? And if she did deserve what she got, doesn’t that mean that so many other people deserve it too, since what she said was certainly not uncommon? Was Winter being discriminated against because of her race? What would I do in Winter’s situation? Does simply subconsciously having a stereotype make you discriminatory? How are these stereotypes built, and how can they be managed? What really makes a bad person? Can anyone, if we try, turn themselves toward the sun?
Readers of all ages, especially teenagers, can learn from Winter’s experience. Just know this is NOT a lightweight book. It deals with a lot of complex topics and is really thought provoking- which is exactly why you should read it.
Review by: Ava