This is the fourth book in an adorable series about “Nerds” and “Notables” at fictional Smith High School in Forest Grove, Oregon.
This particular book places the main focus on the trials and tribulations of Melanie Morris; her best friend Isobel Peters; or “Izzie”; and their mutual friend Corey O’Neal. While these are all characters we have “met” before, the author doesn’t assume you know any back story.
Melanie is embarrassed of her alcoholic father, Izzie is not as slender as is considered socially acceptable, and Corey is struggling with a relationship with member of a very popular boy band, meaning that he not only has to deal with the usual harassment over being gay, but the relentless pursuit of the paparazzi as well.
In addition, there is the whole nightmare of high school in general, especially as prom approaches. As Izzie muses:
“If my high school experience was a rollercoaster, it would probably be called ‘Crap Mountain’ and involve a lot of gut-wrenchingly sharp twists and turns.”
The author (through the voice of Izzie) perfectly identifies the high school places least likely to provide good hide-outs:
“…bathrooms are notorious for being the place where the worst possible stuff goes down in high school. Bathrooms, locker rooms, and cafeterias. The place where everyone is supposed to be able to peacefully coexist are the ones most fraught with danger.”
But if all this sounds like the book is dark and depressing, it is in fact just the opposite. Not only does Marni Bates load her books with laugh-out-loud humor, but the good guys always come out on top.
Evaluation: This book is a little more serious than the preceding three, but it is still fun, and will provide a boost to high school kids struggling to make it through high school. Bates even provides a “High School Survival Playlist” at the end of the story, annotated with supportive comments, like this one for “There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You” by Ben Folds:
“This song is directed at anyone who tries to make you feel tiny in order to make themselves feel tall. And yes, there is always someone cooler than you. But the really cool people are the ones who become your best friends.”
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp., 2014