Edge the Bare Garden by Roseanne Cheng

Received from NetGalley for review.

Edge the Bare Garden is a surprisingly thoughtful and important story. It’s not very long, around 120 pages by my copy, but it portrays very real and complex issues within today’s society – the issues of the safety of the internet when it can be accessed by all but still be anonymous, and the issues of online revenge and accountability.

It’s told from the perspective of a former high school student and her experiences one year when another student, Agnes, created a blog that detailed confidential information about their classmates. It explores the problematic contents of the blog, the way Agnes has been treated throughout school, and ponders over what the right thing to do in a difficult situation is. Agnes is seen as an ‘Out’, someone who is isolated and removed from any of the cliques or friendship groups in high school, and is seen as the ‘weird kid’. The problem with this, of course, is that no one really knows Agnes or why she’s like she is, all they know is that she has a fairly strange home life and that her sister died when she was young – you can’t know someone based on that little information, but it’s often what happens within school and life in general. It’s easy to be on Agnes’ side for starting the blog – after all, people have been cruel to her – but we know that it’s not the right way to go about it, and the frenzy it caused on social media shows the issues with anonymous posting and lack of accountability, as well as the problem with internet ‘trolls’.

It was much more insightful than I thought it would be – I was expecting a fairly light story about internet revenge gone astray but the author presents the reader with a vast amount to think about regarding the internet and how people behave towards one another. You end up wondering who was really right or wrong during the story – Agnes for revealing people’s secrets, or the people who were mean to Agnes during her time at school? It really shows that there is no ‘right’ when someone is doing wrong to another person, and that a situation like that can never be resolved. The narrator gradually comes to realise that the only thing you can ever do is the right thing even if that seems unbearably difficult. Unfortunately it’s hard to always do the right thing in this age of such easy internet access and all the ridiculous things hidden away online – we no longer feel responsible for things we post or we care too much about the things we read.

It’s a well-known saying that everyone is fighting something, going through their own personal battle, which is something incredibly relevant to this story and particularly to the current trend of sharing so much over social media. If everyone could just try to be a little kinder and do the right thing, we wouldn’t have all the drama that plays out on social media and that has to be a good thing. The narrator addresses it when talking about the blog posts by saying it’s like a train wreck – it’s something horrible but the students couldn’t get enough, couldn’t look away and we really need to get out of the habit of revelling in other people’s embarrassment and misfortune.

Read: August 20th 2016

4/5 stars

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