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Goodreads rating: 3.5 stars
From the author of the unforgettable New York Times bestseller We Were Liars
comes a masterful new psychological suspense novel--the story of a
young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life.
But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.
Book content warnings: graphic murder descriptions, suicide
Summary in a quote:
"She didn't know if she could love her own mangled, strange heart. She wanted someone else to do it for her, to see it beating behind her ribs and to say, I can see your true self. It is there, and it is rare and worthy. I love you."
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1. The plot and structure.
The only other book I've read by E. Lockhart is the forever glorified We Were Liars so I had some idea coming into this book that not all would be as it seemed. True to form, this author takes to heart the whole subverting expectations endeavor. This novel is told in reverse chronological order which essentially results in the reader knowing what the consequences of the actions are before knowing the actual actions.
I have semi-mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it made it a bit confusing to read and you have to keep a really steady timeline in your head. On the other hand, it fits the whole theme and vibe of the novel perfectly.
Seriously. This is a real peanut butter and jelly moment.
I'm going to keep it vague to avoid spoilers because this is E. Lockhart we're talking about! Basically, we get to dip inside the world of someone who wants to be loved and accepted and is willing to do whatever it takes to reach that goal.
With the backwards chronology, we can see her slow descent into the consequences of her decisions so the emphasis is placed more on her own mentality, the steps she's taking, and how they lead her to where she ends up at the beginning of the book. I think, as readers, we're trained to place focus on the large, life-altering events and not so much on the quiet moments in between. In my opinion, those quiet moments are just as or even more important as those large events (of which there are multiple in this book).
I will say that some of the plot points themselves were a little far-fetched and strange. I loved how Jule dealt with the issues, but how they came to her attention were questionable.
To sum up: love the plot structure in the end but not all of the actual plot. Great pie, not a great filling.
“For anyone who has been taught that good equals small and silent, here is my heart with all its ugly tangles and splendid fury.”
2. The characters.
I'm going to be honest here and say the only character I found interesting was Jule.
The other characters were necessary, of course, but they didn't do much for me, even though the author attempted some fleshing with the more important ones. They all just felt like stepping stones for Jule which, intellectually, I appreciate (aiding in this whole desperately searching for acceptance theme), but emotionally, it didn't do much for me in terms of holding my attention and gaining my investment.
“The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”
3. The romance.
This was interesting to me. At first, I really didn't like that there was a romance involved at all. There are so many interesting things going on so I resented the page space given to this strange secondary plot.
Towards the end, I was faced with this whole intellectual/emotional pull again. It's a great way to explore this acceptance that Jule craves because in United States society at least, romantic love is prized as the highest form of happiness and acceptance.
Realistically, though, it just felt like this extra little bit on the side that wasn't really integral. It's a nice romance and all, but it's in that weird space where there's simultaneously not enough and way too much page space allocated to it.
“She believed that the way you speak is often more important than anything you have to say.”
The Final Verdict
The experience reading wasn't nearly as delightful as the experience contemplating once it was over. Ultimately, thematically intriguing while structurally unsound.
Would I reread?
Yes! While I didn't love it, I'm fascinated by the structure the author chose and I think rereading it, knowing everything, could be interesting.