**I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. It will be released on June 16, 2015.**
Don’t get mad, get even! In this poignant and hilarious novel, Rachael Allen brilliantly explores the nuances of high school hierarchies, the traumas sustained on the path to finding true love, and the joy of discovering a friend where you least expect.
In the small town of Ranburne, high school football rules and the players are treated like kings. How they treat the girls they go to school with? That’s a completely different story. Liv, Peyton, Melanie Jane, and Ana each have their own reason for wanting to teach the team a lesson—but it’s only when circumstances bring them together that they come up with the plan to steal the one thing the boys hold sacred. All they have to do is beat them at their own game.
I kind of loved this book.
Let me tell you why I loved this book so much: It challenged date rape culture. The whole book. Every storyline and subplot was carefully crafted to demonstrate how date rape culture begins and is perpetuated and how girls don’t have a say in what in what happens. And then–AND THEN!–these girls fight back. In a hilarious way.
The very first page was a list of dares which, I’ll admit, were a bit raunchy. But intriguing. I wanted to find out what it was all about even though I was worried that the whole book would be gross. It wasn’t gross, thank goodness, but it did have it’s moments.
Ok, so we follow four different girls, hearing their different points of view: Ana, Liv, Peyton and Melanie Jane. Each girl has had to deal with a different form of stereotyping or gender inequality on top of all their other problems. I was actually really impressed with the way Allen was able to give everyone so much depth. The main characters, the secondary characters, even people who only appeared on a few pages had excellent depth. I didn’t find anyone flat, except maybe Big Tom.
Anyway, the social issues dealt with here are numerous and heavy but it’s done very well. I never felt like I was being preached to. Everything that happened was just part of the story, even though I’m absolutely certain Allen went into this with an agenda and a long list of topics to hit on. Included are: Slut slamming, controlling boyfriends, date rape, favoritism, virgin complex (where people try to make others feel inadequate because they haven’t had sex), harassment, sex shaming (where people try to make others feel inadequate because they have had sex), religious judgement, chastity guilt, controlling parents, bullying, etc. I could go on. There’s so much going on here. But I didn’t feel like the book had too much going on. With a list like that you’d expect some seriously graphic scenes, right? But there weren’t. There were some make-out scenes and the knowledge that characters had had sex and a few moments of blunt talk but nothing graphic. The most explicit it got was when we read about date rape. And even that could have been far worse. Allen really did us all a favor by dealing with serious events in way that I would be comfortable with teenagers reading. Because all girls need to know about this kind of stuff. It is important to understand that these things happen all the time and they could happen to anyone. It’s also important to know how to deal with these things happening.
So I loved all that. And the general tone of the book was sarcastic and full of humor. There were just a few things that bothered me:
The Football-God Syndrome. I get that a lot of guys follow the pack mentality and will band together and do what their “leader” says but if the captain of the football team tells a guy to break up with a girl because he doesn’t approve of her, would they? Would anyone? Would the rest of the team go along with it? Does anyone else find this incredibly stupid? And with all the attention given to teams and fraternities and what-not that get in trouble for hazing and bullying and being jerks in general, why is this happening at all? And do the jocks really rule the school? When I was in high school I pretty much completely ignored the football team (and cheerleaders) and thought they were douche-bags. Unless this town is really backwoods or this novel was set in the 80s, I just don’t find the main plotline of this book very believable. The varied subplots, however, are very believable and happen so often it only feels natural. Meaning, it’s such a common aspect of life for girls and women in general that it almost feels redundant to write a book about them. But harassment and gender stereotyping and favoritism should be brought to more peoples’ attention because it is a problem. And it should change.
Teenage Sexual Activity. Given the subjects listed above, you know there is going to be some talk of sex going on here. Again, nothing graphic. And I was actually impressed with the different viewpoints presented. There was a girl who openly chose to remain a virgin until marriage. There was another who candidly had sex with her boyfriend. Another who had sex before she was ready–I really appreciated that that was included here. So often YA books deal with teens having sex and it being wonderful and exciting but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where a teen was very realistically too immature to deal with sex. That would be the norm, in my opinion. Most teens aren’t mature enough to handle the emotional significance of sex and I’m glad this book included that viewpoint. Although I would probably prefer that no high-school-aged kids had sex at all. That said, I understand that Allen was trying to say that girls should have the right to choose what to do with their own bodies and when and I very much agree with that sentiment.
Then there were some general timeline confusion issues and editing problems that I’m expecting to be fixed between the proof that I read and the final edition that will be published for general audiences. So I won’t even go into that.
Overall, I love this book. I love the characters. I love the attitude. And I especially love the message this should send to anyone who reads it. I would recommend this to older teens and I want every man and teenage boy in the world to read this book so they’ll hopefully understand a little bit better how girls think and what we go through.
Sexual Content: Moderate