I'm not sure what to say about this book.
The good points: the basic plot of the book was interesting, so in terms of the twists you expect from a good thriller, it wasn't horrible. There were a couple of well-written moments as well, just a sentence or two every once in a while that resonated, like I always expect from a good book.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of bad points too...
-The narrator is a teen girl cheerleader and has all these totally deep introspective moments, but then apparently sends texts to her friends like "UR not gona tel [whatever]". It's not that I doubt the authenticity of the usage and grammar (pains me to say that), but it was a little jarring in terms of the first person narration to believe that someone with so much insight into themselves could also commit that kind of sin against the English language. I'm sure that if Abbott had chosen to write the text "properly" the criticism from others would be that her characters weren't authentic "teens" or "cheerleaders" or whatever but I'm also so fed up with the assumption that youth culture is somehow universal and that all teens are illiterate morons that love hip-hop and drinking. Might just be me though.
-The girls talk to each other in such crude ways, constantly calling each other "bitches" and otherwise insulting each other and, again, I'm not sure if maybe this is what "popular" cheerleader-types do because I wasn't one, but either way, I'm kind of (very) over this whole misogyny-disguised-as-empowerment schtick that people seem to map onto young women. Haven't read any of Abbott's other books, but would it have been so difficult to have characters that weren't so stereotypically boorish? Are books about smart women not as interesting? Oh, and they're like all eating disordered too, which isn't addressed in any serious way at all, which bothered the hell out of me.
-The awkward moment at the end when the main plot has already been resolved and the major subplot is being resolved and you find out that it is the most trite, cliche, biggest load of bullshit you could ever imagine. Such a freaking disappointment. Again, is it that difficult to write books about female friendships that aren't filled with a bunch of internalized sexist garbage?
-Granted, the major adult character in the novel wasn't exactly making great choices, but I still find the huge blurring of boundaries between young adults (teens) and people in positions of power to be problematic. Not like it doesn't happen, but it's not really addressed in any serious way in the resolution of the novel, and I didn't appreciate that. In terms of adults acting inappropriately AND having to deal with the consequences (somewhat), The Kingdom of Childhood
(Rebecca Coleman) was better (although aside from serious boundary-crossing that book and this book don't have a lot in common).
-Do, like, none of these girls have involved parents? Is that what it's come to? But they all have cell phones and access to cars and all that. They go to classes, even though the notion of doing homework never comes up in between all the drinking and partying and practices and intrigue and petty drama.
-Apparently, Megan Abbott has won an Edgar (maybe more than one? I didn't research her before writing this), and it makes me actually want to read something else she has written because I can't believe someone with a PhD in English that has won a really prestigious literary award could write something this goddamn shitty.
-Full disclosure: I really hate shallow, self-serving cheerleader types, so that may have colored my reading of the novel. I frankly find it extremely difficult to believe that for 99% of them, especially ones from a small town (which apparently has kombucha, which was something else that seemed unlikely), cheerleading is actually about ~feeling free~ and being super physically fit and getting in touch with your inner strong girl or whatever crap. It's about something else Megan Abbott does address, which is feeling like you're more important than other people and being able to ignore everyone that you don't think matters and treat others like complete crap instead of like human beings. Whatever. And for the record, I didn't have a super negative high school experience or anything, so I'm not personally bitter, I'm just fed up with this general cultural fetishization of popularity that discounts what it ultimately comes down to: being a shitty fucking person.
This book sucked.