“I was determined to redesign myself completely into a Bates girl, and as soon as I took that dive, I knew exactly what kind of girl I would be. The kind who jumps first and stays under ten seconds too long.”
Kay Donovan has more than a few things she doesn’t want people to know about her past. She’s worked hard to ensure that the girls at the exclusive and private school she attends have no reason to pry. She’s a soccer star and friends with the prettiest, most powerful girls in the school. Who she was doesn’t matter. It’s who she is now that counts.
When Kay and her friends find a dead body in the school lake, she begins to fear that her past may be haunting her. But it’s when she gets an email from the dead girl herself that Kay really panics. Being blackmailed from the grave isn’t exactly what Kay had planned for her Senior year.
The scavenger hunt/revenge blog pushes Kay to the limits; alienating her from her friends while threatening to expose all the secrets Kay is desperate to keep. It will take everything she has to ensure she isn’t exposed. After all, the truth is what you make it.
“A sharp edge of doubt creeps into my mind. There are consequences to not believing your friends.”
People like us is an intense ride. Part murder mystery, part thriller, this YA unravels secrets and lies at nearly every turn. High School is generally unpleasant for everyone involved. Unless you’re the part of the small percentage that rules the school. Take that general division of social hierarchies and popularity, and add exclusive, private, and wealthy to the mix. That gives you a good idea of the toxic levels of hell that Bates Academy is.
There are some fantastic issues examined in this book. Bullying, power, wealth, popularity to name a few. But further than that Mele shows us what it’s like to have your first love and heartbreak, how confusing coming out can be, the general confusion of growing up.
“I know that look. I’ve worn it a thousand nights alone in my room, staring into the darkness, trying to will myself into another person or place or thing.”
Of course, wrapped into this typical High School story are much darker issues as well. Death, murder, lies, and betrayal. It isn’t just the murder that Kay ends up investigating to save her own name. It’s the things she has to do to keep the revenge blog satisfied. Each task like a cut to the cloak of confidence and invincibility she has woven around herself. Each cut revealing more of her darkest secrets to us.
Mele weaves an intoxicating blend of psychological suspense in this incredible YA thriller. While I guessed at who was behind the entire thing, the reasons why they did it and what tied it all together blew me away. There isn’t anything predictable about this book when pieced together. Even the more obvious plot points are painted to life in shocking ways.
It’s a difficult thing to paint the mean girls of any school in a sympathetic light. And while Mele isn’t trying to make us see Kay or her friends as victims necessarily, she does expose their humanity. We all have things we want to keep hidden. Some more than others. Some more damaging or damaged than others.
“Sometimes you can be in the middle of everything and still be completely alone.”
There is a tragic heartbreak in Kay. In how she fails to see her own role in the parts of her life that hurt the most, until it’s too late. How she blames herself for things she is blameless in. Mostly, in how sometimes things spin so far out of our control, so quickly, so devastatingly, that there isn’t anything to do but bear the weight of the consequences.
People Like Us will resonate at some point with nearly every reader. We’ve all been alone, or lost. We’ve all made choices we regret, felt overwhelmed with the way life has unfolded. Especially as teenagers.
Beyond the plot, the writing is sharp, with dark humor lightening some seriously dark passages. It’s scandalous and devious, and will have you unsure of who to even root for. It’s Mean Girls but with a much deeper bite. It calls out wealth and power and privilege, while also reminding us that revenge isn’t always as satisfying as we think.
If you enjoy YA, especially YA thrillers, and want a dark but delicious experience into the elusive world of boarding schools, this book is seriously for you. I loved every single scandalous moment!
A million thank you’s to Penguin Teen and Putnam Books for sending me a copy!!!