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. . .
Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5/5)
This review can also be found on The Nerd Daily in a slightly more formal style of writing 🙂
OK so– this was…a confusing yet not confusing read. It’s got the sort of mindfuckery that takes me a while to figure out what’s happening as I’m reading, with a bit of difficulty. So I’m gonna try my best to sort this stuff out so my mind can make some sense out of it.
I read this book so fast and many of those stars are because I couldn’t put this book down. It was downright addictive once you hit about 100 pages and got the general gist of where things were going. It was slow yet fast paced because the suspense game was so strong. Once I finished it I think I sat there trying to understand it because although the storyline is simple, the crazy format and the intricate little aspects of it were very engrossing. THIS is the kind of book I’d watch a youtube video about to understand it more (“All of This is True ENDING EXPLAINED” y’know what I mean). Let’s Chat Why:
The characters depicted are so very well described. They each had their own personality, and style and personal views.
During the book, it was strange how my perceptions and opinion of these characters changed as the story developed. The general premise is, these young characters become friends with their favourite author, who then manages to publish a book a year later based on their lives and their secrets which obviously has disastrous results.
Miri was a power-hungry obsessive teen, Penny the not-so-smart rich girl vying for anyone’s attention, Soleil was a happy, naive and trusting girl with passion, Jonah the mysterious kid that is ultimately the main character of this book and the fictional one of which we read excerpts from.
And of course Fatima Ro, a person who I can’t seem to have an opinion about. Is what she did really so bad? It wasn’t really her fault but exploiting those kids’ lives for a book’s plotline without telling them was kind of ridiculous – especially since the book chapter excerpts were so similar and weaved into real life that after I got the hang of it, it was simply a matter of remembering whose names were swapped out for what. Was she really using her previous book and this book to make herself feel better for her shitty actions, to rewrite history and redeem herself in her mind? Did she even care about the girls or even Jonah at all???
See what I mean about confusing. This book was so great at being suspenseful that I couldn’t put it down, but ultimately it kinda left me with more questions than answers. It definitely had a lot of things within it that were interesting; the use of psychology in the start of cults, mob mentality and grieving, the obsession these teens have and how it seriously affected what they’d be willing to do for it. Also how toxic relationships can arise and especially the mindset of fanatics and how any kind of celebrity/author – fan relationship can go wrong because honestly, no matter how awesome their stuff is you don’t really know who they are and what agendas they could have. Fatima was definitely the most mysterious character of all because as much as these kids thought they were getting to know her, it looked like it really just was filler information to keep them enthralled in her presence. The manipulation was there just enough that it had you wondering whether she was really doing it at all.
“What’s cooler than owning the scene? Disowning the scene.”
Now, the fact that this book had me so invested and interested to understand it just shows how good it was. While the twists were kind of predictable, the way it was written and its mixed media format of present time interviews, journal entries and excerpts from the new novel made me reconsider a lot. While it was a tad annoying and weird at first, it blended in so well after a while and the fact that each interview was so personal and each character had a different personality made it even harder to trust whether what they were saying was true. It felt kind of like Pretty Little Liars meets The Bling Ring and I loved that. The most disappointing thing about this, however, isn’t just how confusing it was, but how flat and anti-climatic the ending was. Like YEAH, I GET IT you’re trying to be mysterious and get me thinking but gimme something more. Nevertheless, this novel was pretty great, it was provocative, thought-provoking and original and I did enjoy it.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. The spine looked dope.