My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.
This book is about teenagers, but is definitely an “adult” book: it shows the gritty, seedy underbelly of a world where everyone looks ok on the surface, but underneath, is a complex personality filled with conflict.
The book loosely follows a first-year teacher at Mill Valley High School, an upper-class SAN Francisco suburban high school where her core group of students seem to have it all: from the material to good looks, bright futures, etc. But each of them harbors an intense secret – all strung together by one tragedy in eighth grade. As Miss Nicholls tries to understand her students, she is pulled into a world where nothing is what it seems.
The book is set up so that Molly Nicholls, the teacher, narrates every other chapter, while one student tells theirs in the alternating chapters. It’s an interesting approach, but the timeline gets really confusing. There’s a couple of events which center the narrative, but it’s really all over the place.
Also, if you’re looking for happy endings, this book is not it. It’s very short in good feelings. But it did keep my attention until the end. I really wanted to know what happened to these kids, good or bad. The story was good, if a little (ok, a lot) depressing.
Perhaps if there had been some overarching positive ending to take away, I might have rated the book higher. But in the end, while I did want to know what happened, when I found out, I was really bummed. Like, there’s not a lot to grasp onto here.
I mean, I get that it’s a cautionary tale, but Jay-sus.
I would definitely read this author again, she very clearly has great storytelling skills. I just wish this book had been slightly different.