"In third grade, it was spies vs. ninjas. What started as a pick-your-side game became an invitation-only club. In fourth grade, it was the seats on the back of the bus. By fifth, it was lunch tables. Year after year, the same kids found their way to the top of our small-town social stratosphere, while the rest of us wondered where we'd made a wrong turn."
- Gone Too Far, by Natlie Richards
Summary:Very early on in this YA novel, I found the above paragraph and thought... "Yep. That's high school." This was a very comfortable novel because it felt familiar in a lot of ways. A teen girl named Piper with a fairly strong voice and self-awareness finds what basically can only be termed a gossip book - a list of snoopy little notes someone has kept on others. Who broke what rule, who cheated on whom, who turned up late or drunk or otherwise in a mess. These items are supposed to be "truths" about the popular kids in school -- and at first, Piper doesn't really know what to do with it, other than look and marvel. Sure, she knows the popular crowd - Piper sees them through the viewfinder of the camera she's always got plastered to her face, but there's a distance... a remove from them. She sees how they treat people, and does... basically... nothing but what everyone else does: cringe and be thankful it's not her. And then a catalytic incident spurs Piper to DO something, to CHANGE something, to make some kind of sense out of a senseless world. Human nature, when putting tools (or weapons) into our hands seems to urge us to use them. And so, Piper does... only, once she gets to know someone from the popular crowd, she realizes that her little league of justice? It's just not as straightforward as it once seemed it was going to be.
Peaks: This book was really difficult to characterize... I can't say that I liked it as much as I admired it in pieces. I love a self-aware character who is articulate and has a hobby. That's always a plus for me. I love people who are truth-seekers, and who come away from a book with a greater understanding of what truth is, and their grasp on it.
Valleys: I struggled with some of the stereotypes in this book - that's one of the things that made it an uncomfortable and non-challenging read in some respects, because we were in familiar territory with Mean Girls and Hot Guys. In one scene, a Mean Girl got up to talk about a fashion club and inferred strongly that others dressed badly, which was hard to see happening in real life, but was very cinematic (prepare the buckets of blood, it's Carrie). I was also disappointed at the lack of representative diversity - even if there were was "wallpaper" diversity, as in, some kids just walking in the background or through a scene, the main characters were very typically non-diverse YA fodder.
Conclusion: This story plumbs the depths of human high school behavior. It's kind of a suspenseful Lord of the Flies with lockers and fewer pig's heads. It's an intensely thriller-esque bullying vengeance tale, which for some readers will feel deeply satisfying (for the most part). You may not like this book, but it will get your pulse pounding and freak you out a bit. Readers interested in a well-written, not-too-deep, slice of high-school life diversion, look no further!
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. You can find GONE TOO FAR by Natalie Richards at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!