My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I adored this book! You do not need to read the first book to enjoy this. In fact, skip the first book. It sucked. Read this instead!
TIME FOR A RANT, THOUGH:
If you read my review of the first book, or McManus’ standalone Two Can Keep a Secret, you know I do not enjoy McManus’ style of writing. It’s not because it’s a carbon-copy of PLL (I have found I quite enjoy Sara Shepard‘s writing). It’s because McManus creates worlds that focus on privileged, rich children, with no relatability to the realities of teenhood in the 21st Century. You’d think that one of the purposes of writing about privileged children is that they come to understand their status in the world, and how to be better, more aware/critical individuals. But no: McManus’ worlds just use these settings as a nice lil glamor. Which irks me to no end: every one of her characters are brats, in one way or another, and it’s extremely irritating and anti-climatic when indulging in her novels.
My other gripe with McManus’ writing, more seen through one of the three main characters in this book — Phoebe (or ‘Phoebe-geebies, I love this nickname fyi, and will totally be using it [with consent] to any Phoebe’s I meet), is how sexually active and confident the characters are.
I shall compare it to the TV hit: Gossip Girl. In the pilot, when Serena returns from where-ever she was hiding, her and Blair go to a bar and have some martinis, while catching up…………………….
May I remind you that they are SIXTEEN/SEVENTEEN. Nobody in the show questions them, nor is it ever addressed how/why these sixteen-year olds are so confidently hanging out at NY bars (except for Chuck, who’s papa most likely owns).
I didn’t notice this weird writing– it was after I made a friend of mine sit down and watch the brilliant teen drama, in which thereafter we began to laugh at all the poor writing and plot holes of the teen lifestyles. Other hilariously bad considerations were how sexually active these children were.
I’m not here to state that sixteen/seventeen year olds can’t be sexually active.
I’m bringing to light how unrealistic it is to write about children with the lifestyles of well-off adults. The confidence that is displayed marks the peak of how terrible it is.
To loop this back to this book: within the early chapters, it is established that Phoebe has had plenty of partners. She’s had sex, pretty much with all of her boyfriends. There is no number-count, no recollection, nothing.
As a seventeen year old girl: that would CLEARLY go through your head. Was it intentional for McManus to neglect that train of thought? Was it really just a small detail?
But to me, if it isn’t McManus missing the point of writing about spoilt brats– it’s writing them as adults with adult-behaviours (ie sexual confidence) that just… ruins the ability to connect/enjoy her writing.
Overall, the story is by far, the best that McManus has written. The truth or dare stakes were weak, and so was the tension for it– AS IF one of the thousands of students wouldn’t have told a teacher about the game. AS IF the staff weren’t made aware. AS IF a parent wouldn’t have raised awareness to the truth or dare game.
Unfortunately, the murder in this book only occurs 3/4s of the way through. So it really isn’t actually a big focus, unlike in book 1, or Two Can Keep a Secret.
I started reading Red Hood simultaneously. I won’t spoil the death in that either, but let’s just say: they have the exact same person die. I had to make an effort not to mix the two characters up. They have the same status in high school, the same relationships, and treat the main character/s the same way. What does THAT tell you about the writing/characterisation? Dear god.
The three main characters are Maeve, Knox, and Phoebe.
Maeve had leukaemia as a child, and somehow… people BULLIED HER for it??? Continually, even in high school. Look: I get it. There may be ONE or a small handful of people who bullied somebody for that. But the entire school, so much so that she is an outcast?????????????? No way. Not realistic. McManus, have you MET high schoolers??? Sadly, we see the least of Maeve’s parents (compared to the other MC’s parents), but at least parents are mentioned in this book!
Knox is Maeve’s bestie, and ex-boyf. He doesn’t have much of a personality. But he serves as a crucial figure for multiple events. If his character wasn’t written in, nothing would piece together. I ask again: was this lazy writing? Shouldn’t the function have split amongst all three? Why was it so unbalanced???
Phoebe is a popular girl. Her dad died when she was in middle school, so her + her older sis + younger bro + now widowed mother, live in a flashy apartment. But things are tight, because… well– being a single mum to 3x pre/teen children isn’t easy! It’s almost as if Phoebe and Emma should have been working more (or at allP… to help support their wants/needs………….
I thought the audiobook was masterfully produced, to the point that I will now prefer to find Penguin audiobooks when I’m borrowing ones from the library. The voice acting + organisation was fantastic. Faultless quality.
At NO POINT did I want to DNF this. Which is rare. I typically hate Penguin YA contemporaries, and I lose patience with McManus (if you can’t already tell!).
Go listen/read this book. It’s great. Just be aware that McManus’ understanding of teens, teen living, and teen reality, is completed disconnected. I’m starting to think that the reason all of her stories focus on privileged kids who never learn anything about being brats, is reflective of her own teen experience………….