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Bullies exposed: A Certain Exposure explores a darker side of Singapore schools

First-time novelist Jolene Tan's A Certain Exposure is inspired by real-life student violence and explores how victims of bullies and their loved ones are affected

Published on Apr 13, 2014 7:22 PM

Debut novelist Jolene Tan exposes a darker side of schooling in Singapore in A Certain Exposure, published by Epigram Books this month.

The novel begins with the funeral of a government scholar, who commits suicide after being bullied, and follows the effect of his death on family and friends.

Though names of persons and places are changed, many of the incidents of petty cruelty and student violence in the novel are inspired by real life, says the 31-year-old.

"There was a boy in school, everybody knew the rugby players had taken him into a toilet and p***ed on him. Or this girl who everybody knew had had sex on a pool table, but it never occurred to me to think about what went on behind that knowledge," says Tan, who studied at Raffles Girls' Secondary School and Raffles Junior College before reading law at Cambridge and Harvard.

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Background story

"It never occurred to me to ask, did they want this to happen? Why is it that we all knew about it? Who made this knowledge public and how voluntary was that act?"

JOLENE TAN, author of A Certain Exposure, on bullying in schools