Drowning Anna by Sue Mayfield
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"How can a gifted and attractive sixteen-year-old hate herself? How can her self esteem be so badly shredded that she wants to end her life?" These are the questions that Sue Mayfield presents as her starting point for writing Drowning Anna in her note from the author. The young adult novel Drowning Anna by Sue Mayfield addresses the important issue of teen bullying and the dramatic effects it can have on the self esteems of it's victims. The story begins with the shocking suicide attempt by the main character and victim of bullying, sixteen-year-old Anna Goldsmith. Anna's harsh journey that leads her to the point of wanting to permanently end her life is shown through the two main voices in the novel: the voice of Anna's intimate and personal diary entries that record the encounters she faces with Haley Parkin; and the voice of Melanie Blackwood, Anna's best friend and narrator of the story, who gives the eye witness account of the struggles Anna faced to bring her to the point of attempting suicide.

As Anna moves to a new school, the most popular girl, Haley Parkin, befriends her. Everyone wants to be Haley's friend because of her popularity and outgoing demeaner, but everyone is also afraid of her. She was your best friend one minute and the next she would be gossiping behind your back. For whatever reason, Haley decided to drop Anna as her friend and make her the enemy. Melanie attempts to explain Haley's motive for turning against Anna:

"Haley Parkin goes off people. I don't know why. Perhaps she gets bored with them. Perhaps she runs out of things to buy them. Perhaps she can't stand competition. She doesn't seem to need a reason. She just drops people. She dropped Anna Goldsmith. Nobody really knew why. I've seen her go off people before. But never the way she went off Anna Goldsmith." - Melanie Blackwood.

First, Haley started by ignoring Anna. Soon the teasing began, followed by the mean and cruel remarks. Haley had one goal on her mind and that was to make Anna's life miserable...and that is exactly what she did. What started off as mild acts of bullying by Haley quickly turned into public humiliation at Anna's expense and even serious violent acts against Anna. Anna's friend Melanie finds herself in a tough spot. Staying on Haley's good side means she fits in with everyone else. But she really hates the way Anna is being treated and wants to defend her, she's just afraid to speak out. But Melanie never imagined that Haley's bullying could ever leave the impression it does on Anna. It leaves Anna wishing she could have no life at all as opposed to living under the harsh and cruel reign of Haley Parkin. The following excerpts from Anna's letter to Melanie explains her reasoning why:

"When you read this I will be dead. You said I should lighten up, laugh things off more, not take life so seriously. I am sorry I couldn't do that. I am too small and the pain is too big...You told me to get a life. I had one, but Haley Parkin took it away from me...'I was much too far out all my life / And not waving but drowning.' That's me Mel, I'm too far out. Further than you thought." - Anna Goldsmith.

Meet the Characters

Anna Goldsmith: We meet our young protagonist, Anna, as she is just moving to a new school. She is seen through the eyes of others as cute, smart, and athletic. Anna is a genuinely nice girl on top of being pretty, which gives her an incredible edge over her best friend and secret rival, Hayley. Anna is confident and outgoing until Haley works some of her magic. . .

Hayley Parkin: Hayley is the self-appointed queen bee of the school. She is the welcome wagon and the firing squad all rolled into one. She is outgoing, pretty, devious, and manipulative. Everyone wants to be her friend because it is so much easier than being her enemy. She comes from a family that might be called "nouveau riche". Her father makes a lot of money and isn't shy about flashing it in the form of nice cars and foreign vacation homes. Both Hayley's mom and dad are oblivious to her sly nature and think their daughter is peaches and cream.

Melanie Blackwood: Melanie is kind and quiet and shy and two-faced. She doesn't speak up for herself or anyone else much. She is not so kind that being popular or staying out of the line of fire isn't important to her. On occasion she speaks out against Hayley, but not very often. She will drop everything if Hayley invites her places. Melanie will even go so far as to lie to Anna to stay in Hayley's good graces.

Frances Goldsmith: Frances is Anna's mother. She teaches French at a public school near their home. She is extremely stressed out and busy with work. Frances has always been proud of Anna for getting good grades and has worried very little about her. They have the normal mother/daughter spats. She is more worried about her son, Tom, who doesn't seem to be applying himself in school.

David Goldsmith: David is Anna's father. The two of them have a good relationship. They like to go hiking together when David has time. He is an anesthesiologist at the local hospital. Again, he is very proud of Anna and her good grades. He worries more about his son. Tom, who doesn't seem to be concerned at all about school or where his life is heading.

Tom Goldsmith: Tom is Anna's brother. He is older than she is by a couple of years. They get along pretty well, playing tennis when they can, chatting, and the like. Anna even dates one of Tom's friends for a while. Tom is completely snowed by Haley, like most everyone else.

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