Hi friends! I’m here to review a book that surprised me in many ways. Many ways.
TW/CW: Talk of rape, murder, drugs, assault, grief, abuse, addiction
We Were Liars meets Speak in this haunting, mesmerizing psychological thriller–a gender-flipped YA Great Gatsby–that will linger long after the final line.
On wealthy Commodore Island, Fern is watching and waiting–for summer, for college, for her childhood best friend to decide he loves her. Then Ivy Avila lands on the island like a falling star. When Ivy shines on her, Fern feels seen. When they’re together, Fern has purpose. She glimpses the secrets Ivy hides behind her fame, her fortune, the lavish parties she throws at her great glass house, and understands that Ivy hurts in ways Fern can’t fathom. And soon, it’s clear Ivy wants someone Fern can help her get. But as the two pull closer, Fern’s cozy life on Commodore unravels: drought descends, fires burn, and a reckless night spins out of control. Everything Fern thought she understood–about her home, herself, the boy she loved, about Ivy Avila–twists and bends into something new. And Fern won’t emerge the same person she was.
Have you ever read a book that escalated to the point where you were just so confused but couldn’t stop reading anyway? Yeah, that was me.
This was pitched as a gender-bent, feminist version of The Great Gatsby. Of course, me being the extremely cultured human I am…hasn’t actually read The Great Gatsby yet. But no matter! I still appreciated the story of this book on my own, and it’s inspired me to read the source material. But basically, this follows a girl named Fern, whose life is turned upside down when the rich and famous Ivy Avila moves in next door.
Amy Reed’s worldbuilding is incredible. This story takes place in a “future America”, where the environment is collapsing, white supremacy is at a high, corporations are thriving, and countless refugees struggle for a place to live. Fern lives in Seattle, on an island where the rich come to waste their summers. Reed is absolutely brilliant at depicting the gap between the ignorance of the wealthy and the plight of everyone else. When Fern gets pulled into the rich, glamorous lives of people like Ivy, they visit the city where protests rage, where people are suffering. The contrast is written in such a haunting, bone-chilling way throughout the book.
Now you might be asking: how did I actually feel about the book? I’m honestly confused. The plot was executed well, albeit a bit confusing, if you’ve read the entire book. This isn’t a book you can DNF, because the absolute chaos of the second half sets up for one heck of an ending. Every relationship is tied into each other, from mean girl Tami, to hot boy Ash, to new girl Ivy. And then there’s Fern. As the tension ramped up, I actually found myself leaning forward with anticipation because I couldn’t stop reading about the trainwreck that I knew was coming. Speaking of which, another detail I loved was how, as Fern and Ivy spend the summer together, wildfires are slowly encroaching closer and closer. Again: this had one of the most explosive endings I’ve ever read.
OKAY. BUT. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this was truly one of the most sensitive, profound books I’ve read about trauma and how easily young girls can be taken advantage of. It’s a story that deals with mental health and addiction. And yet, even with so many topics contained within one book, Reed managed to fit them into the puzzle of her own making perfectly.
I don’t want to say anymore, because I do believe that you should go into this blind! You’ll most likely be dreadfully confused at some point, but if you enjoy psychological thrillers and/or The Great Gatsby, please stick to the end! It truly is a whirlwind story with more depth than I personally could have possibly imagined. It reminds me of a more complex, more richly-imagined We Were Liars. 3.5/5 stars.