Monday, May 2, 2016

Beware That Girl

Kate O'Brien is always the scholarship kid with no money, figuring out how to survive socially in each school in addition to how to feed, clothe, and house herself. Waverly School is no different from all the other ones except that it's not a boarding school, so Kate has to work slavishly in Chinatown and bus to the school. Olivia is a rich girl with a mysterious past trying to make up for the year she spent in a mental institution. The two girls become fast friends and all seems well until charismatic Mark Redkin arrives on the scene. The whole school is crazy about him and he seems to do a lot of good for the school, but Kate knows something is wrong with him. Can she keep her best friend away from him before it's too late?

The first half of the book is pretty good. Kate has had a hard life with an abusive father, a dead mother, and providing for herself. She lies and manipulates to make herself the most appealing to administrators, teachers, and classmates for survival and to achieve her ultimate goal: Yale. Every interaction is thought out and designed to craft a desirable image. The teachers think she's a hard worker. Her classmates think she's mysterious and fashionable. The administrators find her marketable. It's interesting to see a more mercenary side to teenage girls. She isn't evil or sociopathic; she's just willing to manipulate, lie, and snoop around to get what she wants which is ultimately Yale but also a roof over head and food to eat. Olivia, on the other hand, seems a bit fragile and is obviously recovering from something big. Her character is a bit of a mystery and her personality is dulled by the medicine she takes.

The the second half happens and pretty much destroys most of what I liked about the book. Mark Redkin is completely charismatic and flirts with pretty much everyone female. Of course Olivia (and most of the school) is totally infatuated with him and no one except Kate suspects he may be less than benevolent. He has behavior similar to her abusive, sociopathic father, but Kate is simply trying to get through to Yale. Olivia shows her true colors, becoming erratic and cruel when Kate even suggests to be careful around him, even threatening to throw her out. The finale of the book goes into cartoonish territory that I simply didn't believe. At least the plot shows how crackpot ideas don't really work in real life. The end reveal is pretty offensive in its treatment of people with mental illness. It's left open for a sort of sequel, but I'm not really interested in reading it.

This book clearly should have been called "Beware that Creepy Dude who Preys on Young Girls," but then it wouldn't be marketed for fans of Gone Girl or other "Girl" titled successful thrillers. The story is interesting and not my usual fare, but the ending is completely unbelievable and brought me out of the story.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

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