What a truly powerful book this was! Best known for the varied distinctiveness of her stories, K.A. Tucker’s foray into Young Adult fiction is nothing less than extraordinary, delivering a coming-of-age story that is heartfelt, relevant, and incredibly thought-provoking. With a narrative conveyed entirely through a fifteen-year-old’s voice, K.A. Tucker captures some of the most troubling issues facing teenagers on the brink of adulthood today with a compelling tale of regret, redemption, and new beginnings that grabs the reader from the very first page. This novel is an important one—every bit as candid as it is touching—and it is a read-in-one-sitting kind of story that you won’t be able to stop thinking about.
I’m not that same girl. My name’s not even the same…
We meet fifteen-year-old Aria Jones on the day she moves to a new town with her mother, their big, cross-country move taking them as far away as possible from their old life and the painful memories that still haunt them both. We are pulled into Aria’s mind from the first page, but only offered tiny glimpses into her past through sporadic journal entries, so the girl we slowly get to know is just a girl who moves with her mother into their uncle’s rundown house in a quiet cul-du-sac, a girl who is desperate not to bring attention to herself at her new school, a girl who sits at lunch with the unpopular crowd, a girl who has no social media accounts, a girl whose first friend in her new town is a spirited autistic teen living next door.
I don’t want to bring attention to myself. Attention breeds whispers and whispers breed rumors, and rumors somehow become facts.
We watch Aria as she becomes smitten by the devastatingly handsome, athletic, popular boy at school—Emmett—the one who always looks at her with warm brown eyes twinkling with amusement, the one who drives her and his sister to school every single day, the one who is going to be a hockey star, the one with the seemingly perfect girlfriend. But as lovestruck as Aria continues to be, she knows that a friendship between them is all she can ever hope for.
This whole crushing-hard-on-your-neighbor-when-he’s-in-love-with-his-beautiful-and-saintly-girlfriend thing sucks, big time. But, at least I get to see him every day. Friendship is better than strangers, right?
Aria’s life, however, takes an unexpected turn when her wildest dreams begin to come true. She gets the boy—she gets his attention, she gets his devotion, and she slowly begins getting his deep affection, too—but her secrets are a constant reminder of how quickly her new life could come tumbling down, old truths threatening not only her newfound happiness with Emmett, but also the image of the girl she’s been so desperate to become. And once her past is finally revealed, we get to see just how much Aria has learned from her mistakes after all.
Everyone has an ugly side. It’s only ever a matter of how well they keep it hidden, and what makes it appear.
K.A. Tucker shows incredible chops not only as a clever storyteller, but also as she realistically captures the mind of a teenage girl trying to figure out who she is, and who she does not want to be. It’s the mind of a young woman riddled with regret and self-doubt, but desperate to evolve, to become a better person, to become someone worthy of forgiveness. She’s not perfect and is arguably hard to like at times, but her self-awareness remains a constant in her personal growth throughout the story, allowing compassion and empathy to guide her on her self-imposed journey of atonement. A compelling work of Young Adult fiction that perceptively explores the struggles of entering adulthood in the social media age, and one I recommend unreservedly.
"Any rose can succumb to rot, given the right conditions. But, with enough attention, it can come back better than before."