I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.
I received this book free from NetGalley as an uncorrected advance copy. This does not impede my ability to provide an honest review.
I'm not exactly sure what made me curious enough to obtain this book from NetGalley, as I had read The Clique as part of a group read/dare and despised it. There is just so much wrong with that book, and it makes me queasy to think that it has fans who emulate its shallow protagonists. I guess the upside of my previous experience is that I went into this read with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised that I found this to be a fun, albeit fluffy read, though I will issue a caveat that I allude to in my title for this review. I almost knocked this book down to two stars for the ending--or lack thereof. Not only does this book end in "cliffhanger" fashion, but it really just stops, with nothing resolved, right at the climax of the story. The only reason I decided not to take off a star is that I really did feel compelled to keep reading until I reached that not-end, and now I am curious to see what happens next.
So, here is the premise: Noble High is a top-ranked public school in northern New Jersey, known as "the Harvard of High Schools." Families move into Noble, NJ for the school alone. Students at the school feel a tremendous amount of pressure to "achieve or leave." Every year, five freshmen are chosen by popular vote as the "Phoenix Five," a prestigious award given for being the most outstanding students in their class, commemorated in the yearbook, The Phoenix. The following fall, September 2012, students return to school to discover that someone has stolen, reproduced, and bound the private journals of these five students and left a copy propped up against the locker of every student in the school. The journals had been an English-class assignment and were kept locked up in the teachers lounge. One of the Phoenix Five has broken in and stolen the journals, hoping to discover whether these fellow students are truly outstanding. The motive for "exposing them" is that the perpetrator is tired of feeling the need to present a facade of perfection and hopes everyone can get "real."
That explanation appears in the introduction, and what follows are entries from the journals of these five students, three girls and two boys in the freshman class of the 2011-2012 academic year. I'm happy to report that I didn't hate any of them, though early on I had some concerns about Sheridan Spencer, who identified herself as a Clique fan who thought it was a good idea to channel Massie Block from that series. When she asked herself "What would Massie do?" I highlighted that text and wrote this as a note (in my Kindle): "She would leave this book because I hate her." But then thankgodfully, Harrison has the "Massie Block" strategy fail, with a glorious reaction from Octavia, the recipient of Sheridan's "Massie" style repartee. "Silly Sheridan, cliques are for kids" and "This girl beside me thinks she's Massie Block and I told her she should try to be herself instead. Or at least pick someone more current to copy."
There are a couple of my writing peeves in this book. One is the YA trend of describing the skin color of persons of color in terms of food, e.g. "caramel" and "butterscotch." As for the latter, I don't think this person is meant to be yellow-gold, which is what I picture when I see the word "butterscotch." As an aside, I will mention that the NanoWriMo book I started and abandoned this past November is a YA dystopian parody where the whitefolk also are described this way, as in "skin the color of coconut milk." Heh heh. The other peeve is when a character blushes and describes what color her face turns. Unless there is a mirror in the room, you don't know what color your face is turning. Maybe your face feels hot, and you can speculate that your face has probably turned some variation of red or another color close to that one the color chart, but you don't know this. Many authors do this (::cough::StephenieMeyer::cough::E.L.James::cough::) and I hate it every time.
So I will finish with this: I am curious to see what happens next. I'll happily accept if NetGalley wishes to send me that book as an ARC, too. If not, I'll watch for it in my library.