Everyone has a secret to hide. Olivia seems like a girl who has it together. She knows what she wants, and she’s not afraid to say so. At home, she watches her father and sister sink deeper into isolation following her mom’s disappearance, and for once, there’s nothing Olivia can do to fix it. Matt’s parents never stop fighting, and his little brother too often ends up caught in the cross-fire. After months of tuning out his parents’ battles in a haze of pot smoke, is it too late for Matt to confront them? Claire can’t let go of the last words her now ex-boyfriend said to her: you can’t compare—to what? To whom? Haunted by what he could have meant, Claire spirals into ever-growing bitterness and envy of her best friends, Olivia and Juniper. Everyone thinks Lucas is the smiley, happy guy he appears. But underneath the shiny grin, he’s cracking in two. When he accidentally reveals his secret to a boy from school, he’s sure it won’t be long until everyone else knows.
When rumors of a teacher/student affair circulate at the high school, it becomes clear that someone has an even bigger secret. When Olivia and her friends discover who it is, they’ll have to decide: do they go to administration and expose the lovers, or do they have a responsibility to handle it differently? After all, everyone has secrets.
The dialogue in this book was extremely realistic. It felt as though I were reading a transcript of high schoolers talking to one another. I liked the complex characters. From the get-go, there were certain ones I didn’t think I would like (Lucas and Matt because of the drug issues), and Redgate really won me over, made me see past the behavioral issues I disagreed with. (I still am not a fan of those choices, but I grew to see them as more than a stoner and a pot supplier.)
I thought it was interesting that she explored a lot of different approaches to relationships and sexuality within the novel. One girl has a relationship in which she doesn’t have sex with her boyfriend. Another girl doesn’t do relationships, just casual sex (more on this in a minute.) One boy wrestles with his identity as a pansexual. Another seems to have no feelings of attraction for anyone of any gender. So it definitely communicated the idea that everyone is different and should be respected regardless of those differences.
Olivia’s casual sex mantra is one of the themes I’ve seen often in YA novels. She makes all the usual arguments for her choices—she’s master of her body, boys get to sleep around without anyone villainizing them, she should get to do what she wants without anyone treating her poorly for it.
I agree that she deserves respect regardless of her decisions and that no one has a right to bully or slander her. I found it interesting that despite the very feminist song she sings, as we follow Olivia’s story, we discover that it’s not really feminist principles motivating her behavior. She’s avoiding relationships in the wake of her mother’s abandoning the family. One-night stands avoid the emotional entanglements that Olivia feels will leave her vulnerable to additional hurt. As she begins to heal and grieve the loss of her mother, Olivia finds herself ready to enter a relationship and risk the hurt which might result from a longer-term encounter with a boy. I found that transition interesting.
Olivia chooses to have casual, one-night experiences with boys at her school. A lot of kids make fun of her and call her rude names in response. She remains unrepentant about her choices and angry that some boys treat her poorly. Boys, she reasons, don’t get treated poorly because they sleep around. Why should girls?
There aren’t any scenes describing her escapades. We know about them and we hear some of the slurs students fling at Olivia. In one instance, a boy sends her a picture of his penis via text message. She is disgusted with his uninvited photo.
Another student wrestles with coming out to his friends at school, including his ex-girlfriend, who might not appreciate finding out that he’s pansexual, can have feelings for a person of any gender.
Two boys kiss at one point.
A teacher is accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. See below for more details…
Matt spends a great deal of his time smoking pot. Lucas sells pot and beer to kids at school. Juniper drinks alcohol pretty heavily. One girl ends up with alcohol poisoning at a party. There are no real consequences to the pot smoking and selling in the story.
A teacher is accused of having a relationship with a student. The two have not had sex, and met under circumstances in which the teacher thought the student was an adult. In one scene, they kiss and fall asleep in each other’s arms. Eventually the teacher comes forward and admits to having the relationship and the breach of responsibility and judgment that allowed the relationship to occur. The student’s parents are furious and demand the teacher sever contact, which the teacher agrees to. The student hopes that after graduation, the two will be in contact again.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.