Author: Leah Raeder
Release: April 28th 2015
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, NA
It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.
If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.
She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.
But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.
Which was the plan all along.
Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.
She's going to show them all.
It looked really bad for me and the book for the first about 40%, to be honest, especially since we were already off to a rocky start after I immensely disliked Raeder's Unteachable. I thought that she was kind of recycling stuff from her other novel in this one, which I still think — to an extent.
The fucked up underage protagonist high on alcohol and drugs is nothing new for Raeder, and I was quite frankly already quite sick of that type before I even started. Why? Because I simply dislike people in general who use their diseases, traumatic pasts and addictions like free passes to be a bitch constantly throughout life. It may give a reason for unsocial, rude behavior, but it never excuses it. Even after finishing, I am still angry at Raeder for milking this stereotype, because it felt like she was trying to justify her protagonist's actions with her past, thus squeezing sympathetic frowns from the reader. It wasn't quite as bad as I'd thought it would be, though.
Because, on some level, Laney was a compelling narrator. She was sick and crazy, but not because of certain traits that define her, that she personally think are making her that way. She thinks she's insane 'cause she's attracted to girls, but she is actually insane because she is a psychopath. Her unreliable narrative paints every other character, mainly those who have wronged her, in a shady, dark light; with them being the cruel culprits and her the spotless victim. It's not quite as black and white as it's made out to be at the start, and I'm kind of really into that type of ambiguity. I enjoyed it over the course of the novel, especially the part where you first figure out that things may not be quite what they seem.
However, another bone I have to pick is the way the relationships are portrayed. I am 99% sure that Raeder flat out intended them to come across as what they did, which I am going to explain in a minute, but that doesn't mean I still have to like them. I understand why she built them up like that, but it just felt all wrong to me. You see, the relationship that Laney has with Armin simply was extremely predatory in a way that made me very uncomfortable, and it mainly came across as one-sided. I mean, the predatory thing — Laney was definitely using Armin too, yes, but the way Armin put Laney on a pedestal so soon after they met and literally obsesses over her, it was so so toxic and disgusting. And the fact that Laney doesn't put a stop to it, considering she doesn't even have any deep feelings for him, it was so unnecessary and creepy. I'm sure it could be really triggering for some people.
Then we have Blythe and Laney's relationship, which, obviously, isn't the healthiest either. Still, at least I never got the vibe that one was forcing oneself on the other in an intimate way, like with Armin and Laney. Even though she is always the perpetrator of sex and Armin initially always refuses it, I always felt like he was pushing himself onto her. And I never got that with Blythe and Laney, so I kind of preferred their very toxic, sociopathic relationship instead, which is already saying a lot.
One thing about the structure: Again, I can see why Raeder chose to tell her story the way she did, but all the interchanging time lines really messed up my mind and disrupted the flow of the story so hard, more than once, that I really hated to read on sometimes. Like, I had to physically force myself not to roll my eyes, groan loudly, sigh and fling the book at the wall. It wasn't executed very well, in my opinion. I mean, it added a nice new touch to the storytelling, but ultimately, I would have preferred a more linear read.
In the end, all I can say is that this novel was extremely intriguing to read. Because it is so unlike any other, it is dark and seductive at the same time, it opens a door to a story that you could never really imagine and I liked its unique-ness. Also, the writing is really absolutely earth-shatteringly beautiful, it'll haunt you. I liked this one, guys.