Tuesday, November 15, 2011

She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

I suppose there are a few reasons I read this book. I used to be a fan of Kieran Scott's books written under the pen name Kate Brian (Private series, Privilege series), at least until she decided to throw one of the characters on an abandoned island and then introduce magic a few books later (I stand by it, you can't just introduce magic in a series TWELVE BOOKS IN). Regardless, I'm still of the impression that Scott/Brian can pen a good story. I'm still reading the Private books, despite my issues with them, am I not? (also see: my issues with not completing series)
Another reason I ended up reading this one is that it is the start of a trilogy. I know. That actually sounds like a reason to NOT read it at this point. My best friend and I went on a rant the other day about how it drives us crazy that you can no longer tell what's going to be a trilogy or not. The books aren't marked and sound like stand alone titles. Plus, I inevitably pick up the first one as soon as it comes out or even before it hits stores (see: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, my experience reading Catching Fire), meaning I have to wait years between the first and third books if the author works at a reasonable pace. By the time I read the second, I have no idea what happened in the first. And you can forget about the third. I already have plans to reread the entire Mortal Instruments series before the sixth one comes out in the distant future. I'm going to cut off this rant here. Anyway, I picked up He's So Not Worth It from the new shelf at the library. When my sister saw the book loot that threatens to take over my room each month, she was like, "Uh, I think that's part of a series. Also, I'm pretty sure it's the second one." At this point, I still just assumed there were two of them. I got She's So Dead to Us from the library. After I started it the other night, I did a little interwebs searching and found that it was in fact a trilogy--one that wouldn't be complete until May of 2012. Ack. At that point, I was already committed to reading this book. I decided just to deal. I'm better at picking up the past storylines in realistic fiction anyway.
Congratulations if you read that chunk of nonsense and actually stuck around for the review, I commend your efforts. She's So Dead to Us tells the story of Ally Ryan and Jake Graydon, two people from opposite sides of town brought together by a house--Ally's old one and Jake's current. Ally's attempting to reintegrate herself into the life she left behind eighteen months ago due to the unfortunate financial handlings of her now missing father, with little success to show for it. Jake is firmly involved with Ally's old friends, the ones who are keeping the pitchforks sharp and torches lit against Ally. At first too cowardly to stand up for her, Jake hangs back and lets his best friends screw with her life. However, Ally doesn't just hang back. One of the things I liked best about this story was Ally's character. She was, at a basic level, dealing with the same situation Marissa Cooper did in the way beginning of The O.C., except she actually dealt with it instead of drowning her sorrow in tears and alcohol. She was a strong girl who wasn't afraid to face her former friends head on, both for herself and her mother's sake. She also isn't afraid to admit that she does miss the friends who are tormenting her, which I thought made her very believable. Eventually, inspired by Ally's fierceness and recognition that his friends are being world-class jerks, Jake mans up and begins to date Ally publicly (spoiler alert. whatever, it's going to be obvious. in a good way.) 
I also liked Jake's character, though I wish he had more separate characterization. I felt as if the only reason we knew things about him was because we saw him through Ally's eyes or he talked about her. I did enjoy that he wasn't perfect or incredibly mysterious. Listen, don't get me wrong, mysterious brooding bad boys are all good for certain stories, but reading about them all the time can get boring. Jake was a straight up high school guy. Not a saint. Not a demon. He made mistakes and let his best friend Shannen intimidate him sometimes. He eventually broke the rules, becoming a "Crestie" (rich person) that was dating a "Norm" (lowly heathens, AKA those without endless means). Every once in awhile there is nothing better than reading about a character that you could easily know in real life.
The commentary on high school hierarchy and cliques was incredibly well perceived in Scott's work. So often people act the way they do in high school in order to meet the expectations of their friends in possession of slightly stronger personalities. Only about two of Ally's former friends had an agenda against her, the rest were simply going with the flow in order to not get in their way (this was true in both Chloe and Hammond's cases, also in Jake's). Scott showed that sometimes friendships are only as strong as the people in them are. Unfortunately for Ally, many of the people she was friends with didn't have the strength to go against Shannen and Faith.
The only drawback I can think of to this book was pacing. I thought that it took a little while for the story to move along. After Ally and Jake met, i felt there were like 50-75 pages that didn't really push the plot. This includes Ally's time spent dating David, who she ends up hurting with her feelings for Jake. This relationship didn't really do much to push the plot along, nor did David's hurt feelings seem to have a deep, lasting effect on Ally's friendships. Maybe I'm just jumping to conclusions here, being as there are two more books' worth of story to go.
Told in the alternating voices of Ally and Jake, She's So Dead to Us explores what happens when what's left of a family chooses to return to an unwelcoming crowd and break the rules of the social strata surrounding them. Scott introduced strong, relatable characters that kept me interested enough in a normal high school story to want to complete the series, even if I can't fully finish the series until May. Sigh.

Rating: 4 - good.

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