Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (20th Sept 2016)
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
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Quirky titles are my downfall. But better than that, are stories that deliver and boy oh boy was this something else. The blurb captures the essence of this book, but it simply doesn’t do justice to how amazing and heartbreaking this story is.
“This is how I kill someone.”
I was hooked right from page one - and given the last 4 books I’ve been reading at the same time but none kept my interest, this was a huge deal to me. After reading that first line, I WAS A GONER. There was me thinking I was in a book slump that’s why I wasn’t enjoying anything - but this book proved to me that I was itching for an amazing story - and of course, it shattered my heart in the process.
From the first line, right through to the last, I was hooked, I laughed, I choked up, close to tears, insert some valiant fist pumping throughout various chapters - and of course, the ending sucker-punched me right in the feels. As much as it killed me, I gotta say, the truly memorable books are the ones that give you an ending you didn’t want or expect - but it’s so fitting to end THIS particular book in that way, because nothing else could have done it justice. Once you read and get to this ending, you’ll know exactly what I mean. And then we can huddle together with arms around each other and cry into each other’s flabby necks *well my flabby neck*.
We follow the story of Alex (who by the way, I kept picturing as Alex Vaus from Orange Is The New Black). Anyway, so we’re introduced to Alex in the first chapter, as she details to us about how she knows the way to kill someone. For anyone interested in this method by the way, it’s all about learning their habits and tracking their day to day activities. Just saying.
“This is how I kill someone.
And I don’t feel bad about it.”
I knew I was going to love Alex. More on that later. So the book opens with Alex and her revenge on the guy who raped and killed her sister. And what a hooking, gripping, ass-clenching first chapter that was. From there on, the book is split into three different narratives, Alex herself, Peekay (aptly nicknamed as she is the preacher’s kid) and Jack - the popular Jock who becomes intertwined into the lives of these two fantastic women.
There are many things I loved about this book, one of which was how this wasn’t a story about a girl *however twisted she may* and a boy. Nope, this was about them, but also about friendship, about loyalty, about so much more than the book blurb will have you believe. The rape and murder of Alex’s sister rocked this small little town these people live in, and that tragic legacy is through which people identify and remember Alex. Peekay (that word by the way, means “drunk” in Hindi - which just makes me lawl silently to myself every time I read her name). Fun fact for ya there. Anyway, Peekay lands with Alex when they both volunteer to help out at the animal shelter - from their awkward encounters and animal related bonding, these two form an unlikely friendship, which I loved. Jack Fisher, your usual jock, falls into the story when both Alex and he find themselves running for the position of valedictorian; for Jack, getting a full ride scholarship is his ticket out of this town. His one whiff of Alex, her detached self, her freckled face and green eyes, and suddenly that’s all Jack can think about. His memorable encounter of her ends with Alex kneeing a guy in the groin when he tries to touch her as a joke.
“And you, girl,” he says to Alex after pulling away from me. “I could just eat you up.”
He’s going for her with a big dumb grin on his face, absolutely certain that she will have no problem with him smashing his fingers into her lips and his face up to hers.
Her expression doesn’t change; that slightly confused look that had been directed at me as I struggled with words now turns to Park as the fist that never unclenched finds a target.
She drops her shoulder to gain some momentum as she takes a jab at his crotch, one bony knuckle protruding on purpose for maximum effect as if she wants to pop his testicles like water balloons.
And he goes down like a box of rocks.”
I don’t want to give away what happens in this book, because it’s definitely one you need to read for yourself, going in unaware, and guaranteed you will leave with tears. But I will tell you about the important and brilliant way in which it deals with a lot of issues - such as sexual assault, slut shaming, perception of males and females. When Peekay finds herself in a compromising situation at a party without her consent, Alex steps up to defend her friend in a fantastic scene where she rips a guys nose-ring-attached-to-his-ear, right from the roots. How cool is that eh? VERY I SAY.
I loved the characters this author built into this story. Alex, Peekay, Jack. Alex, messed up little Alex who knows there is something wrong within her, a caged animal who's anger and violence she inherited from her father, the anger she keeps locked up until the moment it is called for - in her own form of vigilante justice. Yes, her taking justice into her own hands is wrong, but why is it that you can’t help valiantly fist-pumping and cheering her on whenever she does this? Alex, messed up little Alex who finds a bond with jock boy Jack - and shows us that deep down, despite her anger and her violence, she is really just a girl, who somehow just knows how to respond to a guy. The bond she forms with Jack, was tentative, sweet, honest and very open. And I loved that. Peekay, was another swell character; the preacher’s kid - but one who drinks, who likes to party, who by all accounts, is nothing like the stereotype she’s cast in. I felt like there were a lot of instances in this book, where the author kicked stereotypes in the ass, and Peekay and her parents is a fine example of that. Lemme show you one of my most favourite scenes from the whole book:
“We’re not stupid; we know you drink,” Mom says, and I am so damn grateful my head is already down. “We know what it’s like growing up here, honey; we did it too. But neither one of us was ever the preacher’s kid.”
“And I know that’s not easy for you,” Dad adds. “I want you to have a normal high school experience without that defining you. But you’re also my daughter, and I’m just a dad who wants his girl to be safe.”
“I am safe, Dad,” I say, and part of me wants to keep my face covered and part of me wants him to know that I didn’t start crying until this moment, and embarrassment has shit to do with it.
“Sara.” Dad clears his throat. “This applies to you too. Just because you’re not interested in boys doesn’t mean they’re not interested in you.”
“Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” Sara says into her hands.
“Girls,” Dad says. “If either one of you is ever in a situation you’re not entirely comfortable with—call me. I don’t care what time it is. I don’t care who is there or what is going on. You call me and I will come get you.”
I’m totally crying now, and I don’t even care. I look up at my dad and he’s crying too; my mom’s got her hand on his knee like she’s the only thing keeping him attached to the world.
“Baby girl,” Dad says. “There’s nothing you can ever do that will make you unwelcome in my house.”
I nod, a few tears falling into my lap when I do. Sara’s still got her face covered. Mom takes my glass to refill it and Dad goes to get some tissues. Sara looks over at me and wipes her eyes.
“You’ve got the best parents in the fucking world,” she says.”
I legit got choked up reading this scene, and I love it so much. You got a preacher for a Dad? NO PROBLEMO. At the end of the day, he’s a father first, preacher after. He just wants his girls to be safe. No matter what. *heroic fist pump for awesome parental representation*.
Now, the unspoken underdog of this book, who is actually my favourite character in this story. Branley. She may seem like your typical selfish, back-stabbing, slut-face, hoe bag, but in reality, she is so much more than that. Just HAD to insert that Mean Girls quote. But seriously, Branley is your run of the mill, popular, hot blonde girl - or so you’re led to think. But to me, she was one of the best things about this book, and Alex made a great observation about her:
“You shouldn’t be that way about her,” Alex says. “I hear what people say and I bet half of it isn’t even true. And even if it is—fine. She’s no different from you and me; she wants to have sex. So let her … She likes boys, and she can get them. You were hurt by that, but it wasn’t Branley who hurt you. It was Adam.”
Branley enjoys sex, she has a lot of it over the course of this book - and of course, she is slut-shamed for it. Girls hate her, boys want her. She came across as the most self aware character for me, because she’s aware of what she’s painted as, what she’s viewed as - and there’s a scene in the book where she has a breakdown, where she admits to herself and to the person trying to hold her steady, that looks are all she has.
“It’s all I’ve got, you know,” she says.
“This.” She indicates her drop-dead body with a casual wave. “I’m not smart or funny or mysterious.”
“Uh, you’re hot,” I tell her. “That goes a long way.”
“Nope,” she says, shaking her head. “What have I got left? Ten years? Fifteen? How long before my tits sag and my hair goes gray and I get wrinkles? How much makeup will I have to wear to compete with the other women who are interesting so people listen to them, who got good jobs because they’re smart, who got Jack because they’re mysterious? How long before my husband gets bored and bangs a younger version of me because I don’t have it anymore?”
“This is what I am,” she says. “And I’ve only got so much time to use it in, so that’s what I’ve done and it wasn’t always the right thing and maybe it didn’t even make me feel good sometimes.”
I loved this so much about her character, and it was very honest, very open and a raw scene about ones self value, self importance, about looks and identity. But another reason I loved her, was again back to the that scene where Peekay finds herself passed out at a party, on the edge of being taken advantage of. Sure, Alex was the one who ripped a guys ear off for it, but Branley was the one who got down on all fours, kept Peekay’s head in her lap, tried to help her wake up. “Branley looks up at them, her face set in a fierceness I remember from the night she went ballistic on me. Branley is about to blow.” She’s a girl, defending another girl, and the fierceness in this scene is something I loved about her character - doesn't matter what she’s viewed as at school, or how popular she is - this scene was important to me because she could have just as easily left Peekay on the floor and not gotten involved. But she did. And I love her for it. Another scene that proves her awesome-ness? - I found it so sad and horrifying where in the book, police guy came to school to talk about rape and someone said they wished it was Branley as a joke, and she was visibly shook by this, trying not to let her emotions show. At the end of it all, she’s a real character, not some barbie doll who we see in other books as just being shallow. She had real depth, demonstrated in so many scenes throughout the book and I’m glad the author let us see that instead of letting her be your usual blonde chick.
All these fantastic characters, weaved together a story I won’t forget - a story that made me laugh, made me want to bawl, and also made me angry. The writing was a joy to read, and the plot masterful - there aren’t enough good things I can say about this book, except it’s a brilliant read, one that will keep you hooked and one you surely won’t forget. It’s bold, sharp, witty, disturbing, brutal - but what good book isn’t? Read it. You’ll love it.