Seven characters. Seven deadly sins. Seven narrative POVs. Seven shades of meh. I mean, not even fifty. Just seven.
Aside from the "Hey! I'm juggling SEVEN narrators, ha ha!" conceit, this book could be called High School Book. It felt oddly generic. The one thing that makes it feel modern is that one of the characters is pansexual, and I'm 99% certain another one is asexual. But including these characters, while important for teens who identify as such and who are looking for themselves in fiction, doesn't help the story.
In fact, there's not really much of a story. I suppose the main plot conflict is that at Paloma High School, administration has received an anonymous tip that a teacher is having a forbidden relationship with a student. They hold an assembly and announce it to everyone, despite not knowing who's involved. This ... does not seem realistic. Telling a huge group of high schoolers that one of their teachers is having the sexytimes with one of their classmates is going to turn into a huge witch hunt and no one--NO ONE--would be paying attention in school. They'd be trying to figure out who was involved. Plus, it's just irresponsible for a principal to get up in front of these kids and say, "Hey, so, one of our teachers is doing a very ethically wrong thing, but we don't know who it is, so could you figure it out?" That's not their job. It's your job, as a school administrator.
Everyone assumes that the student in question is the "school slut," Olivia. Everyone judges her for hooking up with numerous guys, and she points out that it's her choice to do so. "It's not like my reasoning needs to be public knowledge." Her best friends, Juniper and Claire, defend her, but secretly wish she'd just stop sleeping with guys. Although Olivia successfully explains her right to do what she's doing, I still couldn't really like her. She points out that the double standard in what's cool for guys (being a player) and what's verboten for girls (being a slut) is ridiculous, but she's also excessively selfish. If she just wants to hook up with guys, she should make that clear at the outset. Her ex-hookups have wanted to have relationships with her, not just sex. At least agree on what's going to happen after.
Juniper is the perfect girl. Her sections are all written in verse, which, honestly? I found it pretentious. Oh, the perfect arty girl who is hurting inside. Yes, she must express herself in poetry. Oh, so tragic.
There's a bunch of other characters, too, but the story seems to revolve around Olivia and her "relationship" with stoner Matt. Actually, this is the relationship Matt has in his head with her and manages to convince her that they are in love. Um. No. I was also a bit confused when the pansexual character, Lucas, describes everyone at his school as "aggressively heterosexual."
Question: if you say that sexuality is not a choice, then heterosexuality is not a choice, and people who are heterosexual are not such just to prove a point. An "aggressive" point. Unless he means people want him to be hetero too? It just came off weird, like, "Oh, I can't find a BF/GF because everyone is so AGGRESSIVELY hetero." And also as diverse as "your average mayonnaise jar." Lucas, dear, you are smart, but you need to work on your similes.
Like I said, there's really not much of a plot here. Characters describe their days. They talk about schoolwork. They moan about relationships. The teacher/student subplot simmers until the end, when it explodes into a hot mess.
The resolution of the teacher/student relationship really killed the book for me. We read it from *spoiler alert* Juniper's point of view, because yep, she was the one kissing the cute English teacher David García (but supposedly not doing anything more even though they fall asleep together). He tells her "I'm excited ... I'm excited for us. I keep thinking stupidly far into the future, you know? ... I think about it all the time. After you finish college, us traveling. Brazil. India."
STOP. I felt sick reading this. Sick. I don't care if you think you're in love. The teacher just broke a cardinal rule of trust. What he did was so unethical I cannot even deal with it right now. I don't care if you think you're in love with your seventeen year old girlfriend. You're a teacher. She's a student. You have power. And even at the end, when David turns himself in and leaves Juniper, he tells her, "I'll see you again." No! No! June is going to wait for him! And the reader is left with the impression of two ill-fated lovers, forced to part for a time. That somehow what they did was okay because they "loved each other." I'm becoming incoherent over here so ... just think about that, okay? About how wrong this was and how no one seemed to learn anything from it.
I can't recommend this to anyone. Books like The Rest of Us Just Live Here and I Crawl Through It epitomize the high school experience far more eloquently.
I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.