Published by Balzer + Bray
Published on 25 April 2017
Genres: Contemporary, United States, Young Adult
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Being a pretty girl is who Rosie is, but it’s the start of a new school year and she wants to be more. Namely, she’s determined to be better to her best friend, Maddie, who’s just back from a summer program abroad having totally blossomed into her own looks. Rosie isn’t thrilled when Maddie connects with a football player who Rosie was hooking up with—but if it makes her friend happy, she’s prepared to move on. Plus someone even more interesting has moved to town: Alex, who recently garnered public attention after he stopped a classmate from carrying out a shooting rampage at his old high school. Rosie is drawn to Alex in a way she’s never really experienced for a boy before—and she is surprised to discover that, unlike every other guy, he seems to see more to her than her beauty.
Then one night, in the midst of a devastating storm, Rosie suffers an assault that tears apart her life and friendship with Maddie. Forced to face uncomfortable truths about beauty, reputation, and what it really means to be a friend, Rosie realizes that change doesn’t always happen the way you want it to—every disaster has consequences. But with a lot of help and the right people around you, there might also be a way forward.
I had a lot of thoughts about this.
I thought it was beautifully written. The skill of the author as a wordsmith and storyteller were really great. The word choice, pacing, and characterisation led to high engagement and I ended up reading this book pretty quickly.
I didn’t much like Rosie as a person, but I loved her as a protagonist. She’s not meant to be likeable, though I did keep having to remind myself hat she was an ignorant, uneducated teen girl in a misogynist world. Being pretty is the only thing she has to offer, and it hasn’t gotten ehr anywhere in life except to lure in the boys she enjoys. The flip side of that is that even older guys whose attentions she doesn’t want are take by her looks.
She recognises her own flaws, and she’s trying to be a better person. She’s insecure and seeks her internal validation from boys, tying her looks to her self-worth, and is desperate to be prettier and ‘better’ than her supposed best friend. She thinks having fun and getting attention from boys is all life is about. But she doesn’t deserve to be labelled a slut. There is no ‘because’. No one deserves to be slut-shamed.
Rosie’s big problem, and the internal obstacle for this book, is that she and the entitled boys around her don’t understand the concept of consent. She internalises the things that happen to her because of someone else’s choices and ends up blaming herself.
As I was reading, I kept remembering this event from the one season of Big Brother Australia that I watched all the way through when I was a teenager. Two men held down a woman and ‘turkey-slapped’ her (that is, slapped her face with their genitals). The boys thought it was funny, but the girl didn’t appreciate their ‘prank’ and told them they were being mean, but more in an offended rather than angry way. Of course, this was caught on camera (and actually live streamed) because it’s Big Brother. The producers immediately kicked the boys out, because what they did was a sexual assault. However the girl cried and blamed herself for the boys’ own actions.
Rosie likes it when boys grab her and throw her around. She thinks it’s fun and she loves being the centre of male attention, which makes her beauty a powerful gift. But Rosie also grows as a character throughout the events of this novel to realise there is more to life than meaningless fling after meaningless fling, and that liking someone for who they are rather than what they do or the attention they give is so much better than meaningless fun. She discovers it’s better when someone likes you for you rather than your beauty.
I think this book was also supposed to be about her friendship with Maddie, I liked Maddie, and I can understand her own actions, especially since Rosie makes so many bad choices that reflect poorly on her – like taking forever to explain what actually happened at the party. I also liked that once Maddie heard the truth, she did not continue to side with a dumb boy but renewed her friendship, because sisters before misters.
However I found Rosie’s relationship with Alex Goode (as conspicuous a surname as Bella Swan and Anastacia Steele), the only guy who doesn’t objectify her, much more interesting and engaging. I liked how the events of the novel led to them spending genuine time together so that Alex could see the real Rosie, not the fun loving boy crazy one. I liked how organic their relationship was. But I think the inclusion of Alex’s off-page girlfriend was unnecessary to the plot.
I think I enjoyed this novel more than I initially thought I did. I thought it was a great character study and watching Rosie evolve was one of the highlights. I wasn’t that impressed with the ending, however, since I was hanging out for the antagonist to get more of a come-uppance than a drink thrown in his face. However the novel was much, much more about Rosie’s coming to terms with her beauty, her self-centredness, and how she interacts with it than revenge on a boy.
I just want to point out that it’s 2022 and I am reviewing an ARC of this book I received from Edelweiss in 2016 in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It’s been a long time coming, with other review books getting prioritised over this one, the actions of which I regret. I’m working through my old ARCs because I feel bad for never getting to them.