Note: This review does not contain any spoilers.
This is Book Two of the “She’s So Dead To Us” trilogy. At the end of Book One (see my review here), I had one of those GAAAAHHH moments upon realizing the book “ended” [loosely speaking] with a cliffhanger. Ergo, not only did I have to RE-READ Book One before starting on Book Two, but Book Two does THE SAME THING. GAAAAHHH!
These are fun books, even though in Book Two, Ally, the main character, morphs into a sullen, surly, self-absorbed version of the sweet, spunky girl of the first book. In She’s So Dead to Us, one wonders how anyone could resist this appealing character. In He’s So Not Worth It however, one wonders why the title wasn’t “SHE’s So Not Worth It.”
Brief summary of Book One: Ally Ryan’s world is turned upside down when her family must abruptly leave “The Crest” in Orchard Hill, New Jersey – a small neighborhood where the rich people live – and escape to her grandparents’ house in Maryland. Ally’s father, an investor, has lost all their money, as well as most of the savings of all of their friends on The Crest. As if that weren’t devastating enough, after two weeks in Maryland, the father abandons them and doesn’t return. Eighteen months pass before Ally’s mother saves to return to Orchard Hill (albeit in the poorer section), but Ally and her mother are shunned by their old friends. Nevertheless, Ally, now seventeen, begins a surreptitious relationship with same-aged Jake Graydon, the “hot” boy who now occupies her room in her former house. But Ally’s old friends are determined to destroy her as thoroughly as Ally’s father destroyed their lives.
On to Book Two:
This book is interspersed with the notebook observations of Ally’s new friend Annie, who takes over the job of being fun and genuine, since Ally clearly is no longer in those categories.
Ally’s mother is now dating, and Ally resents her for it, and hates the new guy, Gray, who has the nerve to try to be nice to her when he is not her father! They all head off with other “Cresties” to spend the summer at Gray’s place at the New Jersey shore, but Ally is determined to be as antagonistic and unpleasant as possible.
She is so self-absorbed and grouchy that even other characters get sick of it (along with the readers, one might add). As one character shouts:
“‘I am so sick of hearing about you and your problems with your mother and how your dad bailed on you and wah, wah, wah,’ he said, his eyes blazing. ‘News flash, Crestie Girl, everyone’s lives suck! The only difference between you and the rest of us is that we don’t spend every waking second whining about it.’”
Alas, this does not produce an epiphany for Ally. It only makes her feel hostile toward the speaker, Cooper, a “hot” boy Ally meets at the shore.
Eventually, Ally’s rebelliousness gets her into trouble, and she finds out who her real friends are. Maybe. There’s that cliffhanger at the end…
Discussion: Both books are told in alternating chapters narrated by Jake and Ally. Book Two adds frequent interludes by Annie’s “Daily Field Journal,” injecting much-needed humor and warmth to mitigate all the melt-downs in Book Two. And almost everybody is having melt-downs (or personality changes).
Interestingly, much of the Sturm and Drang comes from a puzzling lack of introspection by all of the characters, who each make at least one bad choice in behavior. After the mistake, the character is then punished and/or shunned, and is crushed by the repercussions of having made just one mistake. And yet, when the next character comes along and makes a mistake, all the previous mistake-makers join in with the punishment and shunning. These Orchard Hill people are not much for reflection and self-examination.
But that’s part of their characters, which are really quite well drawn. Scott has great instincts for limning the thought-patterns of both teenagers and adults. You may want to send everyone to his or her room, and yet you’ll be admiring the profiles that made you feel this way. Further, the characters manage to stay likeable and real in all their permutations.
Evaluation: Entertaining teen trauma, but personally, I’d wait for the third book since the first two don’t actually end. Note for Moms: no explicit sex and no drugs, but there is drinking, implied sex, and lots of the F word.
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011