Narrator: Jennifer Lim
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Published on 17 October 2017
Genres: Contemporary, United States, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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The most important thing is that Jess Wong is Angie Redmond's best friend, even if Angie can't see how she truly feels. It's okay that Jess is the girl on the sidelines that nobody notices. That means she's free to watch everyone else and be at Angie's side. But when Angie starts falling for Margot, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can already see what's going to happen. And suddenly her gift for observation is a curse.
As Angie drags Jess further into Margot's circle, Jess finds more than her friend's growing crush. Secrets lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won't be able to handle the consequences. When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.
I quite enjoyed this book, though there are a couple of things that I do have issues with.
First I’ll talk about the good things:
It’s queer and there is no judgement or hate for the queer characters. Jess’s mother, who is Chinese, even says, “If you’re a lesbian, that’ s not a problem.” Jess hasn’t come out but is clearly in love with her best friend Angie, who starts dating bad little rich girl Margot. I found it refreshing that there wasn’t one instance of homophobia in this book, it was just about girls and the weird things girls do.
I especially found this book quite fun because Jess was a total weirdo. I personally would react in such incredibly different ways to how Jess reacted to things, and you know, that’s why my life is drama-free. But Jess created her own drama by just reacting so strangely!
For example, when Angie starts dating Margot, Jess is consumed by jealousy, but Angie doesn’t know how Jess feels about her, so essentially Jess just ghosts her, and then starts stalking her. It’s so odd! But it makes for good conflict, so it was fun to read. And later on when someone is incredibly rude to Jess at a party, she doesn’t just leave, like I would – like I have done, to be honest – and the drama and conflict continues. This is why fiction can be so interesting, because you can read about such different actions to ones you would take.
I also really liked Jess’ little comic world she was developing with Kestrel and Lainie, and I’d really like to see it as its own comic because like Jess’ teacher, I think it’s a really interesting superhero origin story. I usually don’t think artwork and other very visual activities transpose that well to literature, but the way Lo wrote about the comic and Jess’s process, I had quite strong visualisation of the panels and could enjoy it as a story within a story.
Probably the only thing I didn’t like about this book – and it’s a pretty big thing – was what I consider to be a very strange choice to switch from first person halfway through to third person. The use of third person was so that we could experience things that Jess couldn’t possibly know, like interview transcripts. Confidential conversations like that are incredibly hard to pull off like that in first person – it usually involves the character snooping where they shouldn’t be, and eavesdropping, which is quite hard to do with police interviews. I totally understand why that section had to be in third person.
However I don’t think first person was used effectively in this novel, especially since it bookends the story. I think there may have been some kind of attempt at unreliable narration, but I don’t think it was pulled off effectively, and I just don’t think using first person in the novel worked very well. I think the whole thing should have been third person, and I think that would have worked much better, especially with the unreliable narration part. We could still get inside Jess’ head and feel her feelings, and I think it would have been better because it would have seemed more impartial and less subjective. And I say this as a huge fan of first person! If it weren’t for the transcripts, I would have loved for this whole novel to be in first person.
Luckily all other aspects of the novel were really enjoyable, so this odd choice to switch between first and third person has only docked one star in this review. I also listened to this on audiobook, and it was a really great performance by the narrator
Though I’m not quite sure what is up with the title and cover.