My Rating: 4 / 5
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.56 / 5
** I received a free copy of this book from net galley in return for my honest review**
I loved this book! In this genre bending YA novel, you’re never totally sure if what you’re reading is a mystery, a contemporary, or even a paranormal novel. Sedoti’s writing is perfect. She keeps the tone light, and almost satirical at times, all the while dropping
wisdom on us. There were so many wonderful passages, that I felt really spoke to the high school experience. “There’s no such thing as a normal high school experience, Thorny. You assume everyone else is happy all the time and living an ideal life. You don’t get that other people are pretending too.” This story will draw you in and make you feel everything – I laughed often but I also felt sad and angry for Hawthorn at times. This book isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn close when you compare it to other popular YA contemporaries.
The basic premise of this story is Lizzie Lovett goes missing after camping in the woods with her boyfriend. Hawthorn Creely, who both envied and admired Lizzie, makes it her personal mission to find out what happened. Telling you anything more would spoil the story, so just trust me when I say it is a worthwhile YA read.
Hawthorn Creely is a breath of fresh air, against the sea of other “quirky” characters in YA contemporaries. YA loves to introduce us to quirky characters that are having an existential crisis, and spend most of their time philosophically contemplating the meaning of life. They seem to know more about classical poetry and Immanuel Kant than your average English professor. Hawthorn Creely could have easily fell into this category. She’s weird. She’s got an unusual name. But that’s about where the similarities end. Hawthorn sees everything that is wrong with high school and her small town, but still wants to fit in so badly and I think this makes her ten times more relatable than any of our past “quirky” heroines. Don’t get me wrong, Hawthorn is weird. Possibly the weirdest character I’ve met in a YA book. I’ve read reviews where people found her too odd and hated the book because of it. I personally loved the weird way she saw the world, and it was fun spending time inside her brain.
Sedoti realistically depicts, and satirizes, the way we react to tragedy. Whenever there is tragedy, especially in a small town, the community is rocked. Griffin Mills is no exception. When Lizzie disappears it seems to be all anyone will talk or think about….at least at first. Everyone wants to feel close to the story. People who haven’t talked to Lizzie in years, suddenly are devastated by the loss. People who hardly knew her, act like they were once close. People love tragedy, when it isn’t their own. Hawthorn wonders at first why everyone cares so much, appearing callous and unsympathetic to everyone around her. She never means to be callous though. She genuinely doesn’t understand why people who don’t know Lizzie are so upset by her disappearance. Later on in the story though, Hawthorn seems to be the only one who still cares. By the midway point of the book, Hawthorn is completely invested in her search for Lizzie, and she grows critical of those who lose interest. The same people who were crying the day she disappeared, now seemed bored by talk of Lizzie. There’s a lot of talk about the way we are expected to “move on” after a tragedy that will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever had a hard time recovering after a loss. On top of satirizing our obsession with tragedy, Sedoti makes a great point about the way we each react differently to tragedy. There’s no rules on how much we are each supposed to feel and for how long, and this can often leave people confused when dealing with a loss. Sedoti captures that confusion perfectly.
Nothing in life is ever as it appears. This is one 0f the themes Sedoti plays with the entire novel. She especially does this with the characters, showing how on the surface we may never truly show who we truly are. “You only know the part of the story people want you to see.” Hawthorn is constantly realizing throughout the story that everyone around her has these multiple facets to their lives and personalities that she has failed to notice. Many of us do this within our own lives. This book also does a good job of showing how we often only see what we want to see about a person. I felt like this was a great message, not just for high school students, but for everyone.
There is a lot of girl on girl hate going on in this book. Lizzie has a nemesis – the stereotypical popular, mean girl. We see these kind of relationships a lot in YA novels but it bothered me more than normal in this book. First off, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Mychelle to be antagonizing Hawthorn. In this book Mychelle seems to have a personal vendetta against Hawthorn and it’s never really explained why, other than “she’s mean.” The second issue I had was the way Hawthorn fights back. She is set up to be the victim in this bullying situation but the things she says to Mychelle in retaliation are just as awful, or worse, than anything Mychelle has said. Hawthorn turns to slut shaming for pretty much all of her comebacks which made her hard to root for. There’s also some girl on girl meanness between Hawthorn and her best friend. Neither of them are supportive of one another and they both are pretty selfish about their wants. I know teenagers are selfish, but can’t we get one book where best friends love and support one another?
Many of the characters fall into cliche stereotypes. Mychelle is your typical pretty, mean girl. Hawthorne’s brother was a high school football star, and now he’s just stuck in his small town and not going anywhere. Enzo is the tortured artist, bad boy. Her mother’s hippie friends drove there seemingly straight from Woodstock. Hawthorn herself is such a fleshed out character, I was a little disappointed to see so many side characters falling into these cliche roles.
The cover is terrible. Don’t judge a book by its cover. We all do it, but seriously with this one don’t. When I look at the bright, yellow cover with the daisy on the middle I assume this is going to be a forgettable, stereotypical YA contemporary. If it weren’t for the intriguing synopsis I never would have been interested in reading this book. The book is much more serious than the cover would lead you to believe. It also feels totally unconnected to the actual story. I believe there is one reference to daisies in the entire story and it didn’t even feel like that significant of a moment. If the cover is what is deterring you from buying this book, I get it, but don’t let it.
This book was a fantastic read, especially from a debut author. I can’t wait to see what else Chelsea Sedoti writes and I will definitely read whatever it is.