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It’s prom night but Lucy would much rather be at home destroying zombies online. Instead her best friend Ellie, who has fallen sick, has convinced her to get dressed up and go to prom in her place. Including as the date of Ellie’s boyfriend Cole. Things are made complicated by the fact that Lucy has had feelings for Cole ever since she met him four years ago. But he’s been with Ellie the last three.
Cole convinces her to come to the after party as well even though Lucy had planned to go home. When he kisses her, Lucy momentarily allows herself to be swept away before remembering Ellie. But it’s too late – the next day Lucy finds herself the victim of an online scandal. Someone took her phone at the party and used it to upload a number of incriminating photos to Lucy’s facebook, photos Lucy didn’t take. Photos that incriminate her, showing her kissing Cole and later, sleeping in bed with him. And Lucy isn’t the only one in compromising pictures – everyone is tagged which means parents and any number of people see them.
By Monday morning, Lucy is a pariah. Branded a slut and worse, the whole grade is against her not only for publicly kissing someone else’s boyfriend but also exposing all of their own secrets and partying behaviour. Despite the fact that she didn’t take the pictures or post them, the fact that they’re posted under her facebook account is damning. Lucy absolutely has to find who the real culprit is and expose them. She also needs to apologise to Ellie and beg her best friend’s forgiveness and graduate without this scandal hanging over her head.
There are scandals in any online community – you only have to look at the plagiarism, authors vs bloggers over reviews etc in the book blogging community to realise that it happens everywhere. And navigating social media whilst in high school would obviously provide some challenges. All of a sudden every humiliating moment is able to be document and shared with thousands of your ‘closest friends’. Secrets are hard enough to keep – they’re even harder when everyone has a smart phone and instant access to the internet. So chances are if you’re going to do something like kiss your best friend’s boyfriend at a party, there’s going to be someone around to take a snap. The twist is Lucy’s phone is also stolen and the incriminating photos are uploaded to her own facebook account.
Unfortunately there was a bit of this book that didn’t really work for me and the first bit is Cole. We’re told by Lucy a lot of times that she has feelings for him, that she’s always had feelings for him but the book begins at the prom so we never get to see any of those moments between Lucy and Cole. We never get to see her fall for him and then we never feel her agony when he starts dating her best friend and continues to do so for three years. Also, Cole is barely a blip on the radar in this book. They spend the prom together, obviously but then after the scandal erupts, they barely see each other or speak. I will say that Cole does support Lucy and he tries to contact her but she seems to spend most of her time avoiding his texts or calls because she ‘can’t talk to him right now’. It seemed to make no sense. What I think would’ve been better, was if the love interest shifted to a character the reader actually got to know, the student journalist on the school paper who attempts to help Lucy by wanting to present her side of the story. The two of them develop quite a rapport and it turns out later on that there’s actually an excellent chance for conflict. But instead Lucy remains fixated on Cole, even if she barely spends any time with him. It meant that I never really cared about Lucy and Cole being able to find their happiness together because I never really got a chance to see what that might actually look like.
Warning: The following paragraph does contain ***SPOILERS*** Skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid a key plot point being given away
Also it turns out later in the book that Cole and Ellie broke up before the prom and didn’t tell anyone. Lucy is upset that Ellie kept this secret from her before remembering that she’s been keeping the secret of having feelings for Cole from her best friend too. I think Ellie’s reasons for pretending to be sick and avoid the prom were flimsy at best. She missed out on a night she’d wanted to go to for the whole year. And then she forced her best friend, a bit of an introvert and not a girly girl, someone who’d rather play online zombie killing games than dress up, to go with Cole. It was really just weird. And okay, Ellie didn’t tell Lucy but maybe Cole should have? Way, way before he did. Maybe before he kissed her. That whole plot point was kind of stupid and felt like it was just thrown in there to avoid having the main character do something that other people find distasteful in making out with her best friend’s boyfriend but in the end it doesn’t make much difference because Lucy didn’t know they were no longer together. The fact that Cole didn’t tell her just gave him another black mark.
For some reason a bit of this book is devoted to Lucy’s sister, a spoiled star on a TV soap who seems to be unable to tell reality from the fictional TV land she inhabits at work. I’m not entirely sure why this is, perhaps as holding up a mirror to the slut shaming that Lucy faces at school but her sister is a huge pain and I spent most of the book wanting her to go away. The only time I really felt connected to Lucy as a character was when she recounted the story of what happened to her when she went to visit her sister. That felt like the most real Lucy was in the entire book. However she doesn’t seem able to articulate her feelings about it to anyone else. Her parents are absent (conveniently) throughout this whole novel and when they are present they seem to be oblivious and overly impressed by Lucy’s sister’s rise to fame. I can’t even remember her name now, so that’s how great an impression she made on me.
For me, this is one of those books that sounded great when I read the blurb but then didn’t deliver. The author could’ve done so much more about why Lucy was bullied and harassed relentlessly after the photos were uploaded, but Cole was unaffected. I did like that Ellie didn’t condone the bullying of Lucy and did stand up for her on several occasions, even though she wasn’t speaking to her. But there could’ve been much more about society’s tendency to ‘blame the woman’. I also found the school’s way of dealing with this incredibly inappropriate and bordering on the ridiculous. I’m not sure if that was supposed to be humorous – perhaps because I’m a parent now, I don’t find dismissal of bullying behaviour unacceptable. The principal of this school basically has zero idea and acts unprofessionally and in a way that makes it difficult to believe she would ever be appointed to the role she holds.
Points for a good idea and an attempt at a hard subject but the lack of depth and too much meandering in the plot made it a bit of a disappointing read.
Book #255 of 2014