Published by Bloomsbury, 12 March 2015, £3.79 (eBook version). 352 pages.
Plot: Before Carolyn Lessing arrived, nothing much had ever happened in Adamsville, Alabama. Each week, at dinner tables and in the high school assembly, everyone would pray for the football team to win. Each year, the Adams High hotlist would be updated, and girls would rise and fall within its ranks. Each day, everyone lived by the unwritten rules that cheerleaders did not hang out with the swim team, seniors did not date freshmen and the blistering heat was something that should never be remarked upon. But then the new girl came.
All Carolyn’s social media could reveal was that she had moved from New Jersey, she had 1075 friends – and she didn’t have a relationship status. In beach photos with boys who looked like Abercrombie models she seemed beautiful, but in real life she was so much more. She was perfect.
This was all before the camera crews arrived, before it became impossible to see where rumour ended and truth began, and before the Annual Adamsville Balloon Festival, when someone swore they saw the captain of the football team with his arm around Carolyn, and cracks began to appear in the dry earth.
I came across this book whist volunteering at the charity shop. It was a proof copy which we’re not allowed to sell. It was weird because we normally get donated super old and dusty books. So I wondered if there was a fellow book blogger that just had too much. Anyway, I took it home because I’ve been meaning to read it and the cover is just so striking. And this is what the book is about: image, that and passivity. I thought it was brilliant debut and even though it’s not a romance, it deserves a review.
The use of first person plural is definitely creepy but extremely understandable. For anyone who has been in an adolescent friendship group, especially a girl one, you will know that you were a clone. You stick together in public, travel, eat and shop in a pack. You are referred to by others as ‘them lot’ or ‘so and so’s gang’. It is almost as if you, like the narrator, are faceless. The novel cleverly addresses the universality of these cliques and how they are always watching, always talking but never getting too close.
I can understand the narrator becoming obsessed with the beautiful new girl. Everybody is attracted to beautiful images. In the digital age everything is easier, quicker and traceable. But for bullying, the brutality is harder, faster, and inescapable. Tweets and Instagrams multiply and circle continuously. Its not so easy to just deactivate all your social accounts. Being in my twenties I’d like to think that I am detached from the digital generation, but I still find myself Facebook stalking.
The novel has good pacing and the colloquial language is very believable. Nothing is worse than an author misusing slang…The novel also alternates between narration and documents, which makes readers feel even more like they are gossips and peeping-toms. It addresses the irony of bullies being bullied and turns back on the reader. Would I, ultimately, have done anything different? Would my 16 year old self have reached out to Carolyn?- The truth hurts.
Connect with the author: @sarahkeegs