Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How To Break A Boy by Laurie Devore

How To Break A Boy by Laurie Devore
Release Date -  January 31, 2017
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  352 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received for review from the publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Keep your enemies close, but your friends closer.

Olivia Clayton has mastered the art of tearing others down to stay on top. She and her best friend, Adrienne, rule their small southern town like all good mean girls do--through intimidation and manipulation.

After Olivia suffers a family tragedy and catches Adrienne sleeping with her boyfriend, Olivia is over it. She decides to make a change--but it's impossible to resist taking Adrienne down one last time. Up to her old tricks, Olivia convinces golden boy Whit DuRant to be her SAT tutor and her fake boyfriend. But when it starts to feel real, Whit gets caught up in Olivia and Adrienne's war.

Olivia may ruin everything she touches, but this time she won't go down without a fight--not if it means losing Whit.

And definitely not if it means losing what's left of herself. 
Unlikeable is a word that gets used for female characters a lot. It usually means that the character in question made a decision the reader wasn't comfortable with, or made decisions that are morally skewed. I've noticed that female characters are held to a ridiculously high standard, or at least they used to be. Books like How To Break A Boy are starting to change this viewpoint. It unapologetically has characters that will be called unlikeable and I am so happy it does.

Laurie Devore's debut novel is written with precision. It's as bold as a dark red lipstick, and screams just as loudly. It's, at times, hard to believe that this is a debut novel because of how well crafted it is, and it is one that delivers a message as sharp as it's writing.

All the girls in this book make bad decisions. There are bad life decisions happening all over the place in this novel. These are not girls you're going to necessarily want to be friends with. You definitely wouldn't call them 'nice'. They are, however, complex, vivid, and realistic. We've all known girls like this, some of us may have been girls like this, and that makes this book instantly recognizable. I think it is important that this book shows girls like this that they can change. That their decisions do not have to define them forever. That you can make mistakes, and atone for them, and grow as a person.

As much as this book allows its female characters to be flawed, it never makes excuses for them. It shows the hurt that is caused to others, and themselves unflinchingly. It advocates for accepting the consequences of your actions, and showcases that you cannot control anyone else's actions but your own. It zeros in on manipulative toxic friendships and how hard it can be to break that cycle. It's easy to be sucked back in and we see that with Olivia and Adrienne's war. There are bystander casualties and that makes this book just a little more heartbreaking.

Olivia is such a nuanced character. Laurie has created a backstory for her that is simply heartbreaking, and as a result being inside her head gave me a bit of whiplash. She goes from having these redeeming moments, to making the worst possible decisions for reasons that make complete sense for her character even as you want to yell at her not to make them. Her voice is so strong, and vibrant that she effortlessly comes to life. It is her voice that compels the reader, and ensures you'll follow her through her bumpy journey.

Whit DuRant is definite book boyfriend material. He is forgiving, patient, and sweet. He calls Olivia out when she needs it, and encourages her to be the person she wants to be. He sees her not as the sum of her previous actions, but as someone who can be more. He may help Olivia find the path, but he recognizes it is her path to navigate. He cannot fix her, and I like that he didn't try. He just showed her that he felt she could change and that support was vital to both his character growth and Olivia's own journey. It doesn't hurt that their romance is basically the 'hate to love' trope which is one of my favourites.

If you like your female characters complex, messy, and razor sharp I recommend you pick up this stunning debut. If you like well written novels that are going to make you a little uncomfortable, I recommend this book.  Laurie Devore is a fierce new voice in young adult literature and I cannot see what characters she gives us next.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with what you've said. This is such a beautifully written review!


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