If You Don’t Have Any­thing Nice to Say

Leila Sales

  • Review
By – July 1, 2019

When sev­en­teen-year-old Spelling Bee champ Win­ter Halperin posts a racist tweet on Twit­ter, her life is upend­ed when it goes viral. After a stream of pub­lic crit­i­cisms and threats, her thought­less action spurs con­se­quences; Winter’s title as a Spelling Bee champ is revoked and her accep­tance to her dream col­lege is rescind­ed. She also los­es one of her best friends, Jason, who is hurt and frus­trat­ed by Winter’s inabil­i­ty to real­ize the depth of her offense. Her rep­u­ta­tion tar­nished, Win­ter strug­gles to come to terms with her predica­ment. But does she real­ly under­stand what she did was wrong? Will she accept per­son­al account­abil­i­ty for the harm she has caused regard­less of her inten­tion? As a last resort Win­ter enters Revibe, a rep­u­ta­tion reha­bil­i­ta­tion retreat cen­ter. There, she meets oth­ers who’ve also faced pub­lic ridicule and sham­ing as they col­lec­tive­ly attempt to bet­ter them­selves, repair their rep­u­ta­tions and atone for their past mis­takes. She hopes an immer­sion in this envi­ron­ment will extri­cate her from the prob­lems she has caused but the pro­gram does not pro­vide an easy fix.

Although Win­ter learns much about who she is in rela­tion to the soci­ety around her, she con­tin­ues to miss some of the lesson’s fin­er points when she sup­ports a char­ac­ter who has also lost his rep­u­ta­tion although he, unlike Win­ter and most of her fel­low retreat part­ners, has pub­lished his harm­ful posts pur­pose­ly as part of a scam.

Win­ter is Jew­ish; she men­tions attend­ing Jew­ish Day School as a child and cel­e­brates High Hol­i­days. In par­tic­u­lar, she finds the obser­vance of Yom Kip­pur par­tic­u­lar­ly fit­ting in her cur­rent state. Winter’s moth­er also pep­pers her speech with Yid­dish words. She does not, though, attempt to fil­ter her eth­i­cal dilem­ma through a deep Jew­ish lens as one who has her back­ground might con­sid­er a nat­ur­al process.

Cer­tain to pro­mote dis­cus­sion, this sto­ry explores the inter­sect­ing con­cepts of the inter­net call-out cul­ture, repen­tance, apol­o­gy and what it means to face con­se­quences in the dig­i­tal age.

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

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