I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is March 8, 2016.
Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—whether it’s Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage; or Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal. When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.
I wasn't sure I would like this book at first. I did have a few issues with it, but overall I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
First of all, let's talk about the SEVEN POVs. That is a lot of people and yes, it took a few chapters to get everyone straight in my head. I had issues with the different characters, but I ended up liking most of them. What I liked is that the author tried to differentiate the voices of the different people a little bit.
Here are the characters:
Matt - His POV was a bit distracting at first because he used the word "like" a lot, maybe too much. But then I got used to it and honestly, I thought it was a bit realistic in terms of how some teenagers think and talk. (Confession: sometimes I use the word "like" too much, but I'm working on it!) Matt has a crush on Olivia and some of their conversations were painfully awkward. But these were some of my favorite scenes. How many people can relate to the fact that you can't think of a single thing to say to someone you have a crush on? It happens and I kind of liked it more than if both of them had been super clever and quick witted.
Olivia - Her life was kind of a mess. Her mother just left the family with no word, her dad was pretty much too absorbed in work to notice his daughters and her sister has shut her out. She also gets slut shamed a LOT because she chooses to have casual sex with different guys. Okay, I get that she's in high school, but why should she be shamed for her choices?? I love that she pointed out the double standard about girls and guys when it comes to sex. She pointed out that guys get no flack for enjoying sex and wanting to hook up, but girls get crap for it. And yeah, she has issues that are probably behind her need for strictly casual hookups, but she had no problems admitting she liked sex. Why should she apologize for it or explain it to anyone??
Lucas - I'd like to thank the author for teaching me something I did not know about: pansexuality. Lucas is pansexual, which means he is attracted to all sexes and all gender identities. I'm still not entirely clear on how that is different from bisexuality, but it's a thing. And I could appreciate Lucas's struggle to come out to his peers. And I could understand why he didn't say anything at all. Why should he even have to? He is also Claire's ex and it is apparent that she is not over him.
Valentine - This was a BOY people. Yes, a boy with a traditional girl's name. I loved that aspect of it, but he was so hard to read. I didn't even know he was a guy at first. That was my assumption. I didn't really connect with him as much as the other characters.
Kat - Olivia's sister and she is so depressed and angry over the fact that her mom left. She skips classes, throws herself into theatre so she can escape her problems and spends so much time either sleeping or playing video games that she is obviously addicted to.
Juniper - I loved Juniper. I really did. Her POV was told in verse, which may not have been realistic in terms of how people think, but was still beautiful. I could relate to the fact that everyone thought she was a perfectionist, but she made mistakes. A lot of them. Then she starts drowning her sorrows in alcohol and I was so surprised that her friends didn't realize something was wrong sooner. I just wished we had gotten more from her. We didn't get nearly as many chapters from her as we did from the other characters.
Claire - Oh Claire. I am NOT saving the best for last. Here's the thing: I could relate to her (to some extent), but I hated her. I mean, really hated her. I could relate to her low self esteem and her constant need to compare herself to others. But man, she was an AWFUL friend. Just awful. She was supposedly Olivia and Juniper's best friend, but she didn't act like. First of all, she slut shamed Olivia herself and she never stood up for her friend when people made fun of her. What kind of friend does that? When Olivia was complaining to her that a guy was harassing her, despite the fact that she had told him no plenty of times, she BLAMED Olivia. She didn't say it out loud, but she thought that if Olivia didn't sleep around so much, she wouldn't have to worry about that. REALLY?!? Whether Olivia has slept with one guy or one hundred guys doesn't even matter. She still has a right to say NO. That freaking pissed me off. Then she made every single problem her friends had about her. She withdrew from them, then got pouty when they had fun without her. And then towards the end of the book, she did something REALLY horrible. That clinched it for me.
Okay, so there are a lot of characters and a rumor about a student teacher relationship. No spoilers, but it is evident pretty early on who the student is. There were also so many side issues and I think the basic theme was this: everyone has their crap. Everyone lies to a certain extent and nobody's life is perfect. I thought the author handled the student teacher relationship pretty well (better than a few other books I have read, in my opinion) and I thought the author did a great job of bringing all these incredible side stories together and trying to give everyone an ending. There were a few happy endings and a few (more realistic) not entirely happy endings. I did think that a few people had major revelations about themselves and got some redemption a little too quickly (I'm looking at you, Claire), but all in all, still an enjoyable book. I get what the author was trying to do with the seven people and the seven different sins, but I feel like the story could have been better without as many voices. Because there were so many people, the author wasn't able to focus on certain people as much and gave everyone a resolution pretty quickly. I would still recommend it.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!