Summary from Goodreads:
When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.
Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.
When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…
This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?
This review is spoiler free.
eARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Content warning: underaged drinking, mentions of drug use, talk of abortion (specifically referring to it as murder), mentions of conversion therapy
As per usual lately, this review will be a breakdown of what I liked and didn’t like about this book. Me, having a consistent review style? As fake as that seems, it appears to be true. I’m just as shocked as you.
This book follows Maegan and Rob, two high school students who have been having a rough time recently, to say the least. Rob’s dad has been caught in an embezzlement scheme and everyone, including his former best friend, thinks he was in on it. Maegan cheated on the SAT the previous spring in a moment of panic and desperation and got 100 people’s scores invalidated and people have been treating her badly since. The two are thrown together to work on a calculus project and well, things happen? Never hire me to write a summary, like ever.
What I Liked
How the book handled important issues
Brigid Kemmerer’s books often take on important topics such as grief and abuse and this one was no different. There were conversations about children being defined by their parents actions and poverty and privilege and the way people treat you due to circumstances beyond your control, just to name a few. While I did have a few problems with some of these discussions, as I will talk about later, I do always appreciate how Kemmerer does not shy away from these topics and tries to use her books as a way to spark discussions about these important issues.
How complex the characters were
A big topic in this this book is just how complicated people and their intentions can be, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it features some pretty complex characters. I felt like I knew the characters and their intentions pretty well by the end of the book, but also like there were even more of them that could be revealed if that makes sense, which I really liked. These characters seem like real flesh and blood people who have flaws, who have made mistakes, and who just want to do the right thing but have trouble figuring out what that is.
The reminder that one mistake doesn’t define you
Mistakes are talked about a lot in this book, as I’ve mentioned, and there are a lot of discussions about how one bad day or one mistake doesn’t define you which is always a nice reminder. I really enjoyed how this book navigated that and how the characters slowly came to realize that for themselves.
Maegan and her sister’s relationship
I feel like my reviews almost always have a positive point for family relations and I guess that shows how I am a total sucker for a well written family dynamic. Maegan and Sam’s relationship was one of those for sure. They had a lot of the normal sibling problems like fighting over anything, threatening to tell their parents, feeling competitive against each other, and probably more I just can’t think of at the moment. They had their ups and downs throughout the book, just like normal siblings. They were very realistic and I loved their relationship, it was honestly one of my favorite aspects of the book.
What I Didn’t Like
This book seemed really slow in the beginning, and then like things were happening way too fast in the end. The conclusion in particular seemed really rushed, with everything just being wrapped up in a few paragraphs by characters just recapping everything instead of letting the readers see these important events take place. The pacing was not so bad that it ruined the book or anything, but I feel like it could have been much more balanced if that makes sense.
Some of the discussions concerning stealing, and abortions
I said earlier how I appreciate how this book tried to open up discussions on very serious, moral questions, and I really do, but there were some iffy lines of discussion on these issues that I was left feeling uncomfortable about. One specific thing that I was very uncomfortable was the characters referring to abortion as murder several times without anyone addressing it. I kept waiting for it to come back up and for the characters to discuss what was wrong with that mindset, but it never happened. There was also some conversations about how stealing was okay as long as you steal from the rich who won’t notice, and while it was addressed, it was addressed only once or twice and I felt that it didn’t really get enough discussion about how that is not a great line of thought. I just wish these issues were discussed more, I guess?
I liked this book. It is definitely not my favorite book of hers (pretty sure that title will always go to Secret), but it was enjoyable nonetheless. It was thought provoking and took on important issues. The characters were complex and seemed real. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a heavier, thought provoking contemporary.