Dinah Powell enrolls in Lowry, a new (and prestigious) school, after her cousin Claire falls into a coma. She dyes her hair back to blonde, removes her piercings, and puts on her most winning smile to take over Claire’s life. She wears the clothes Claire would have worn, makes the friends Claire would have made – and meets the boy Claire did meet, the one who ruined her life, the one who destroyed her. Dinah found Claire’s diary, all about Brooks, the boy from Lowry who seduced Claire and then left her, causing her to cut herself, to slip on the blood, to bounce her head off of the sink. Dinah wants revenge.
I’ve been interested in this book ever since I read the gripping (and I’m not exaggerating) query letter over at Query Shark a few years ago, the one which also serves as the hook for the book on places like Goodreads. “YA thriller” is not my usual genre to read, but that didn’t matter – I read it in one night. I don’t even think I took a break. It was like watching a trainwreck and rooting for the saboteur.
It’s an easy read, in terms of length and style, and the voice is especially engaging. Usually those dramatic incomplete sentences annoy me in a book, although it seems they’ve become normal for YA, but after the first couple chapters I mostly forgot to notice.
I said above that I was rooting for the saboteur – I couldn’t help but like Dinah. She’s spunky without it being her whole personality; she’s not the standard goth-with-piercings type who hates the world. Yet I felt horrible every time she and her friends did something to make Brooks’ life fall apart, because he was kind. That’s too nondescript of a word – try charming, supportive, or sincere. That was the beauty of the book: Brooks wasn’t a character I wanted to suffer; I couldn’t rejoice in his misery. It was the same with the other central characters at the school, like Chandi, who could have so easily been relegated to a “plastic” a la Regina George, but who was instead given depth and meaning.
I had only a few quibbles. Firstly, Dinah’s mom was villainous for no good reason. An inherently selfish woman, she is painted to an extreme which does not ring true. She’s too needlessly cruel, too pointlessly egotistical. I have no doubt that there are evil mothers in the world, especially in teenagers’ eyes (no matter what I thought ten years ago, mine turned out to be pretty decent), but “truth is stranger than fiction”, meaning that what is true does not always work in fiction. (And, of course, vice versa). In this world where the most unlikely characters have intriguing depths, a two-dimensional villain with no redeeming qualities is a disappointment.
Secondly, I predicted the ending in like chapter 5. I don’t want to say anything more – even vague references could be spoilers. It was a bit disappointing though, especially as I’m not usually clever when it comes to plots – usually I suspend my disbelief and am along for the ride.
I’m going to try to reserve a 5 star rating for the most absolutely wonderful, captivating books I’ve read – something that’s difficult for me, as I tend to wax lyrical in great detail about anything I enjoy. That being said, I would give this a solid four stars. Maybe even 4 ½.
Ugh, now I’m doing those dramatic half-sentences too. My students would never let me live it down.