Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Promise Me Something

Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek
3.5/5 stars
Albert Whitman & Company, 2013
298 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

For some reason, I thought this book was about a girl in foster care. Instead it is the seemingly more prosaic story about a girl in high school, wrestling with friendship and popularity issues albeit with some weird twists. That is exactly the kind of story I tend to like IF I can connect with the writing and the main character. Well, yes to the first and not so much for the second here.

Reyna is starting at a new high school without any friends but is soon adopted by Olive, the weirdest girl around. A few months pass with their friendship solidifying until Olive's secret is revealed whereby Reyna bails on her, seeking to gain entry to a different circle of friendship, one that relies upon mocking Olive and other unfortunates pushing Olive to desperate lengths.

I have long had a soft spot for high school settings so it's no surprise that this book caught my eye. While I notice many similarities with other contemporaries, there was something about the writing and plotting that set it apart. Perhaps it was the time devoted to friendships: Reyna still attempts to remain in touch with her third best friends who now attend a different high school, her rocky relationship with Olive, and her new friendship with mean girl Gretchen and her clique. Though there is a romance, it pales in comparison to navigating the tricky waters of girl world. My summary isn't the best, quite honestly but I hope that it captures some of the plot and it leads me to my feelings about the MC.

They are not positive to be blunt. Reyna is pretty cowardly and largely unable to take a stance, afraid to make any waves. I'm not saying this is unrealistic but I found it frustrating as Reyna consistently waffled about acting. Because she generally knew the right thing to do; she was just afraid to do it. And this is sadly so realistic especially in the cases of bullying as represented in this book. Furthermore Reyna's mother died when she was 7 and her father has lately been dating a new woman who also bears a lot of Reyna's anger and aggression. Though this was more understandable (the woman also caused an accident that seriously injured Reyna's father), it certainly didn't help my mental picture of Reyna as someone pretty unpleasant. Again, it's not fair, I was not a pleasant teenager either, but that's how I viewed it.

I'm not even getting in to the heart of the story, which is only alluded to in the publisher summary on goodreads as that would entail some significant spoilers. Suffice it to say that I thought this book took a weird turn but that it kept me engaged throughout and thankfully Reyna does show some growth especially in recognizing the ways in which she acted ungraciously. If you like offbeat contemporaries, this might be an interesting read for you.

Cover: The railroad tracks are surprisingly relevant-wouldn't want to spoil anything though!

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16 comments:

  1. I hate when a book's description gives readers a wrong idea of what the book is about. Occasionally that works in my favor because I am surprised in a good way but usually it ends up disappointing.

    I have a feeling I would struggle with this book. I am not a fan of mean girl books or characters who act the way Reyna does. I tried reading a Courtney Summers book where the main character was a bully who later had the tables turned. I hated it and don't think I was able to finish. I'm not a fan of the movie Mean Girls either and this kind of reminds me of that but with more substance.

    Teens may be able to relate to Reyna though because it is hard when you want to be popular but that involves being friends with mean people and doing horrible things. Peer pressure...

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    1. I really liked that Courtney Summers book but just found this one weird. It was a tough review to write because I had a lot of vague feelings and difficulty putting them all together.

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  2. I tend to like angry teenagers, so I might pick this one up. But the premise isn't really sending me and I have so much to read.

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    1. I wonder how you'd feel about this one as I know you've been a more open reader than me. Still I don't think it's a must-read unlike some others I've checked out so maybe stick with the books you already know you want to read.

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  3. The main character in this book sounds like she would frustrate me to NO END! lol!

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    1. I just wanted her to stand up for right-she knew what was what and was just so frightened!

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  4. Sounds like an interesting contemporary. I think I might like it, especially since the MC does change and grow as the book goes on. I'm sorry you didn't love this one though.

    -Lauren

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    1. I hope you decide to give it a try then-I love to see books find just the right audience!

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  5. I'm not a huge fan of contemporary reads. Every once in a while I find one that really strikes a chord. Offbeat contemporary seems more appleaing to me than just regular. I may have to give this one a chance. Nice, spoiler free review.

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    1. Glad you appreciate the lack of spoilers-I try really hard to write all my reviews like that but sometimes it's harder like this one was.

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  6. I hadn't heard of this one before, but I do like that cover. I know what you mean about not liking characters, even if they are acting like typical teens, or how they should with their circumstances, sometimes it's just not easy to read that. Or something. So I'm not sure if she would work for me. But for the most part this sounds like a good read!

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    1. I wonder how teenager me would have reacted to this girl-I feel like she might have been more understanding of the peer pressures in high school.

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  7. I am intrigued. I have this to read and review as well, and eee, I feel like I keep pushing it aside. Strange twist you say, hmm!

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    1. I would love to see your thoughts on it-your reviews always help me think through my thoughts about a book more clearly.

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  8. I was curious about this, didn't know much of what it was about, but it does sounds like it would be a pretty good read. Great review.

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    1. Would love to see your thoughts if you gave it a read!

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