Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Keywords: friendship, grief, high school, romance
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thank you!)
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I'm thankful that I read this one despite all that I heard about it prior to beginning it ( Jamie's discussion about it prompted me to pick it up again, and I'm glad I listened to her post).
I feel like there was a lot that was deceiving about this book. Claire (formerly known as CJ) used to be a tomboy who refused to wear dresses, but she got scooped up into the popular crowd at school and quickly befriends Megan, which starts a lot of this book, and I think it's important to know that about Claire going into the story.
Some of the biggest complaints about the book include slut-shaming language and terrible friendships, and that's why a lot of people put this book down. While tons of paragraphs made me cringe at what the girls were saying about other girls, there was never a moment that seemed unrealistic about what people were saying. I remember high school pretty vividly, and while I actively avoided the popular scene (I was neither a picked-on kid nor a picker-on, I was a theatre kid who stayed far away from everything else), it was language I heard all the time and thought was just a part of life. It doesn't mean I didn't like it. But this is an issue with society and behavior, not the book.
As the story moves along, there is quite a bit revealed about Claire's character, in addition to some revelations about others. We find out that every single character in the book deals with multitudes of problems, which I thought was brave and also realistic on Allen's part. It made the characters much more dynamic, and though I hated several of them, it also garnered sympathy from me. It also made me think a lot about how I judge people in life. I'm guilty, and I think we all are at some point. Allen puts those issues to the forefront and makes you think about how actions and words are affecting other people, even when you really don't like a person.
It was all a bit dramatic in its plot unfolding, and (okay, I can't be the only one, surely) I really didn't even like Luke at all, but the book definitely had its merits in what it was trying to discuss. I was NOT a fan of one part of the ending, and had several options for Claire I wanted to lay out for her, but I did understand why it happened the way it did. It was realistic, and it was what any high schooler would do. I know I did it quite a bit. I was, however, a fan of
the way she and Sam handled their feelings at the end. It was extremely practical to leave the question of them open-ended, and people change so much in college.*View Spoiler*
I would recommend reading this, but go into it knowing you will hate quite a few characters, their language, etc. It's not meant to be politically correct or shame people, it's supposed to bring those issues out and show people what it does.