Constantly in the spotlight thanks to her politician father’s rising star, Olivia Blakely feels the pressure to be perfect. As the youngest girl in her class, she tries hard to keep up and to seem mature to the older boy she’s crushing on, even as she catches his eye. But the need to look good on camera and at school soon grows into an all-consuming struggle with bulimia.
As Liv works toward her goal of gaining early admission to art school, including taking part in an upcoming student show, her life spirals out of control. Swept up in demands to do more than she’s ready for, to always look perfect and to succeed, Liv doesn’t know who she is anymore. It will take nearly losing her best friend and even her life for Liv to learn that loving herself is far more important than earning the world’s approval.
Warning, this book is trigger inducing if you suffer from body dysmorphia, have an eating disorder, experienced sexual assault, and have committed self harm you might want to avoid this book. Because the book goes into in great detail, and God knows I could see it as trigger inducing. Even though I haven’t personally suffered from any of these things, this book made me uncomfortable. True, it did not make me as uncomfortable as I was a 15 Year Old Blimp (which pretty much gave you even more detailed instructions than this book on how to binge and purge-yeah, I remember reading that as a 12 year old and being marginally freaked out) but it’s still bad.
Going into this, I was more than a little weary. My more recent track record with de la Cruz’s books hasn’t been pleasant (to the point where I think my fondness for Bluebloods is merely driven by Nostalgia goggles) and honestly I was sort of relieved this one wasn’t worse than I expected (then again, you can’t get much lower than that sad Pride and Prejudice retelling).
However, just not being that God awful, didn’t make me love this book by any means. In fact, it’s all kinds of awful. But it’s readable since it’s not name dropping some fashion designer every other pages. Because really Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe really topped it with all of the Kate Spade pajamas the MC wore.
I’ll start out with my biggest grievances with this book the multiple sexual assaults that the MC experiences. Several people make unwanted advances to Liv throughout the book, and she is slut slammed for it (one of those shamers being her asshole Paul Ryan Wannabe father, no less). Even after the overdramatic climax– of this book the being assaulted is never really addressed. It should’ve been. It was one of the many underlying causes Liv had that was causing her to binge and purge. The fact that this is never addressed left me feeling disgusted. It seemed like de la Cruz merely had Liv grabbed and groped as a plot point, and it just made me mad.
Book Hulk mad.
Honestly, the binging and purging, the binge drinking, and the random cutting were all plot points too you want me to get honest about it. The book shows that Liv’s under a lot of stress, but one meltdown and her life seemingly gets back together.
That’s not how it works.
An eating disorder, just like alcoholism, and self harm is something you’re going to deal with the rest of your life. You’re not going to get instantly better and be in a “good place” there’s lots of ups and downs and this book does not address it. We don’t get to see Liv struggle at the rehab center when she has to gain weight. We don’t see how she reacts to stress post rehab. She’s just fine and dandy, and that’s not how it is in real life. I get that de la Cruz might’ve wanted to end this on an uplifting note, but honestly it could’ve ended as uplifting with a little more realism.
Though to be fair, the entire book lacked realism. Which brings me to my next issue the Paul Ryan Wannabe Dad.
Maybe it’s because I REALLY hate Paul Ryan (dude, I and any other American with a somewhat functioning brain can through your shitty tax plan and we know you’re gunning for Medicaid and Social Security cuts, you pathetic Trump kissing asshole) but I kept associating him with the dad character throughout the book and in turn it made me hate him (the dad character not Ryan) even more than I probably should. Though to be fair, de la Cruz made him utterly despicable when he went off on his daughter for purposely getting herself an eating disorder because it was going to mess up his campaign for governor.
Seriously, anyone who has an eating disorder is not going to get it on purpose. Personally, I would never vote for someone like Colin Blakey. It perplexes me how he’s even in fictional office-oh, wait…look who we have as POTUS in real life.
Note, if you’re not that political and getting annoyed with these digressive rants about the currently controlled GOP congress and POTUS right now. Sorry, but not sorry. It’s relevant to the book and will be coming up a lot throughout the review. Here’s why. Maybe in 2012 I would’ve argued that Colin Blakey was a caricature at best. But I can’t now, because I totally could see a certain orange asshole writing a Tweet about how bulimia is a choice.
Anyways, besides these things it bothered me how much in detail that de la Cruz went into how to purge. Look, I get that it’s easy to find out how to force yourself to purge but I really don’t like seeing it in such detail in a book when I know that there’s some impressionable 12 year old who’s probably going to read it and get as freaked out as I did when I read I was a 15 Year Old Blimp. To be sure, I don’t think this book was as bad as that one, but it did go into detail and while the side effects of the disorder were mentioned they didn’t go into such detail as they should’ve.
Seriously, the most we hear about the MC’s side effects from binging is brief mention that read more or less like a Wikipedia article.
The self harm bits were even more ridiculous and were more or less an after thought.
I understand that de la Cruz was trying to write about a very sensitive and important issue, but it really did read like a melodrama after school special than anything else. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t connect to any of the characters.
If I felt any emotion towards any of the characters it was hate. The Paul Ryan wannabe and the One Direction Wannabe/ Pervert boyfriend, and the pervert who randomly groped Liv I hated. I also hated Liv’s best friend, Antonia.
We were told she was a good friend, but pretty much every time she and Liv hung out she’d ditch Liv and Liv was just suppose to be okay with it. That’s not how good friendships work, de la Cruz. Oh, and wait, said friend gets pissy at Liv when she’s assaulted because she didn’t stay to help her out with her date…
Yeah, shitty friend.
Healthy relationships were really something that this book failed at. The Paul Ryan wannabe dad is a prime example of this. All the characters in this book are doing everything to make HIM happy and not giving any consequences to anyone else. He has an aide that is outright mentally abusive towards his daughter, but Liv is suppose to deal because her dad needs to win the race.
Note, the last thing I want for the state of California is a Paul Ryan Wannabe. Just saying…
It doesn’t extend to just the father though. Liv’s mother forces her daughter to go to a shrink’s office, without telling her the therapy session is for her and literally ambushes her there when Liv was suppose to be there for the mother’s emotional support.
I’m actually surprise that the shrink was okay with that. You don’t ambush someone like that in such a fragile mental state. Especially not like that, and then tell them that you’ll be disappointed in them if they don’t continue mommy daughter shrink time. That’s just asking for a dumpster fire.
God, these people.
The older brothers are shit douches too. One is a former addict and knows his sister is binging and let’s the behavior go on for months before telling the stupid mother. The other brother has relationship issues with his girlfriend (note the other brother was the LI in de la Cruz’s Something In Between).
Oh, and there’s Liv’s other best friend/future love interest who is so bland that the only thing I know about him is he likes science, has a dead brother, and has surfer hair.
I really can’t compute…
Given the plot of this one, I thought this book would be very character driven. Eating disorders and self harm are complex issues and I felt like this book cheapened them to add “dramatics”. Like in all of de la Cruz’s books there is a ridiculous sense of privilege about the book. Though, in this particular book I think reality might’ve been suspended since I can’t see the cast of a CW show partying with high schoolers. I also can’t see the speaker of the house ditching his position to become governor, or that more attention and scrutiny will apply to the family for running for governor when they’re already the speaker’s kids.
Like I said this one is trigger inducing. I think something with this material could be gut wrenching. But I wasn’t bawling after reading this, instead it was one of those books I threw into the give away box. Only thing is, I sort of would feel guilty about donating this one to charity since I feel like there are a lot of things about this book that could cause potential harm.
Overall Rating: I gave it a D+ it was readable and I originally gave it two stars on GoodReads since I was able to finish it easily. Only thing is, when I got my thoughts together it really made me angry and upset.