Accountable: The True Story of a Racist Social Media Account and the Teenagers Whose Lives It Changed

Farrar. Aug. 2023. 496p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9780374314347.
Gr 9 Up–Journalist and author Slater once again achieves another level of introspection about society through the lens of teen behavior. While The 57 Bus dealt with hate crimes and the juvenile justice system, her newest nonfiction deals with social media and school districts. In 2017, a racist social media account was outed in a small school district in Albany, CA. Followed by a handful of students, it targeted Black girls in the school and posted race-based memes for what was described as “edgy humor.” What followed was a multi-year interrogation of prejudice, teen behavior, school response, and punishment that ended with adjudication in the courts. Wanting to tell a balanced story, Slater sought to interview as many involved families as possible and while not all of them sat for interviews, the book includes court documents, statistics, testimony, and more, which are included in the back matter. The book is an honest accounting of the event couched in a societal reckoning of free speech versus hate speech. Its length accounts for a full chronology with one flaw in its approach: sectioned into 15 parts with prose chapters titled, rather than numbered, and several unexpected poems, it creates unnecessary breaks in the intense narrative. The shocking reality that Albany could be any town is what sustains the rabid interest in seeing how the story plays out since it touches on many aspects of contemporary culture.
VERDICT This is a well-timed page-turner due to Slater’s investigative reporting and must be read, shared, and discussed. Make this a priority purchase.

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