Published by Random House on January 10th 2017
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Received from the Publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book begins when the majority of the students in this book are in middle school. A young man who doesn’t quite fit in, takes a chance and writes a letter telling Calista his true feelings. Then things go wrong. She shares the letter and it soon gets shown around and posted on Social Media. Boy, am I happy that I did not grow up with the internet! His peers begin to taunt and bully him on Facebook and to his face. It is sad just how cruel people can be to each other.
Years later while the students are in High School, their teacher Molly becomes intrigued with their lives. Perhaps because she is a new teacher, perhaps because she is not that much older than them, perhaps because she is slightly damaged herself. She is drawn to these students and their lives but knows nothing of the tragedy that occurred when they were in Eight grade or their roles leading up to the event. Their lives have been affected by the event. Friendships ended, personalities changed, some became more apathetic, some tried harder, and some seemed to not have a care in the world.
Here is a breakdown of some of the characters: Nick is brilliant but also a scam artist. He makes money making fake ids and taking the SAT for people, Calista, the girl who received the letter in Eighth grade, changed her identity/personality and now views herself as a hippie, Dave who feels he can never live up to his parents high standards, Emma is a dancer who parties too hard, Ryan the pretty boy who posted the letter on Facebook, Elisabeth, the shy beautiful girl who wants to be seen for who she is on the inside, Damon rich, spoiled and often experiencing legal trouble. Abigail is a smart girl but not smart enough to avoid an inappropriate relationship with a teacher.
There is a lot going on in this book. While reading this book, I couldn’t help but think of my own high school experience. Again, I am happy that the internet and Facebook were not around. It makes me scared for my son who is in 7th grade. School can be a hard place, having friends should make that experience easier not make it worse, certainly not make it the most dangerous place on Earth. Most of the characters are not that likable. Friends in this book really don’t seem like friends, more just other kids to hang out with. I believe Emma found this out when she was in the hospital and none of her “real” friends visited her.
School is hard, bullying is real, cyber-bullying is real, kids ability to get their hands on alcohol and drugs is real. Teachers crossing the line with students is real. Kids today are dealing with so much more than I ever had to deal with.