Saturday, January 16, 2016

Like It Never Happened, by Emily Adrian

Rebecca and her four friends make up the "Essential Five" -- a group of high school juniors who get all the best parts in their school's plays.  They work hard and bond over their talents and dedication. Together, they decide to form a pact to stand together and never date each other.  But it's a promise made to be broken and, once broken, petty jealousies and ancient rumors resurface with devastating impact.  Meanwhile, back home, Rebecca must deal with her estranged older sister's reappearance after many years.

I have a strong mixed reaction to this novel.  There's a lot going on here and the subplot about the sister never quite gelled with the rest of the story.  Other subplots (like Rebecca's reputation and even her romance with Charlie) hung loosely.  The story seemed cluttered and busy.  On the other hand, I really like Adrian's ability to create a story without a clean resolution.  As well as can be imagined, the good guys carry the day, but the real truth remains buried in the end (all pointing to the protagonists' reluctance in the end to let it all out).  That complexity and nuance leaves this story with a novel tension that seemed brilliant in the end.

In a similar way, there were so many characters in this story and little time to effectively develop them all, but here Adrian's ability to distill the important contribution that each one is to make to this story creates a pleasing tapestry.  I might be able to forgo an extraneous teacher or the older sister's girlfriend, but no one really seemed superfluous.  And in the amazing web of conspiracy and denial that the story tells, everyone has their particular critical part to play.

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