Published by HarperTeen on May 15, 2018
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Edelweiss
Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.
Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.
Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .
I feel like I am moderately black sheeping on this book, because I have seen a ton of positive reviews on Goodreads so far. And mine will be… well, less so. Look, it wasn’t all bad or anything, so that’s good. And since a lot of people really gushed over it, there’s a strong chance you will too! Let’s break down the good versus the not so good, as you do.
What I Liked:
- It’s a super quick read. And it isn’t even a short book, it’s just very readable. I was certainly curious enough to keep reading, and I finished in just a couple hours, so that’s a plus. Who doesn’t like when a book compels them to keep going, right?
- It is all about fangirling over an author! We can probably all relate to the feeling of being positively in awe of an author, and this book takes it one step further- not only do the girls get to meet their favorite author, but they get to become friends with her too. Which is a good reminder to us all that putting people on a pedestal is probably a bad idea in the long run.
- The format is a mixed-media situation, told via interviews, journal entries, even excerpts from Fatima’s book. I really liked the variety- and I hope that the problems I had with it (more below!) won’t be an issue in a finished copy!
What I Didn’t:
- I could not for the life of me distinguish among the characters. And in the mixed-media format, the headings were… not always helpful. There was one section where I seriously had NO idea which character was supposed to be “narrating” at the time. None. But even when it was clear, it really didn’t matter because they all felt pretty similar to me regardless. You have three young, spoiled women with very little in the way of personality. By the end I kind of liked Penny (I think?) because she seemed to have a bit of growth, but that was the extent of my connection to the characters. The thing is, I am supposed to be feeling for them, that their story was used, that they were used, without their consent. But while I get that it was a crappy thing for Fatima to do, I can only empathize on a very basic level.
- The twists were super predictable for me. Like basically all of them? I can live with it if I can guess one or two, but when I feel like I already know the whole outcome… what’s even the point?
- I have super mixed feelings about the whole “copying their story for a book” thing. Like on one hand… get your own material, Fatima. That was annoying in the sense that she didn’t even seem to try to hide their identities? She was almost glib in the way she betrayed them, which… why? Why not, if you’re some prodigy author, not even make an attempt to make the story even a *little* different? Seems… fake. I understand why the characters were pissed, but I also don’t fully understand Fatima’s motivation in the first place. But then on the other hand, okay, she sucks, but… move on? The reason they *didn’t* move on also seemed a bit farfetched. For the sake of spoilers, I’m being purposely vague. But the Jonah bit… Look, what happened was shitty, don’t get me wrong. But what happened happened, and someone likely would have found out regardless of if Fatima had written about it. It’s the age of the internet for goodness sake, no story stays hidden forever. So wallowing in this event for so long seemed kind of unrealistic too- especially since the girls didn’t even bear the brunt of the fallout.
- The ending was so anticlimactic I don’t even know what to say. Especially in the case of a mystery/thriller, it ended and I was sure that my Kindle was mistaken, because that can’t be it, right? Oh just kidding, that was totally it, and I won’t get those 432 pages of my life back.
Bottom Line: While a quick, addicting sort of read, no connection to either the characters or their problems made this a lackluster read for me.