Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Last winter, at the Snow Globe Ball, Cameron Ellis did the bravest thing ever and came out to his school, confessing his love for his boyfriend, Phil Reyno. It was shocking, it was storybook; it went viral in minutes and Cameron Ellis is now the town’s darling gay son. His boyfriend, Phil … not so much. He’s a delinquent with a drunk for a mother, he shouts “faggot” like it’s his personal mantra, he gets bad grades in everything but detention, and he’s poor. At least people look at Phil now with some slight indulgence since Cameron sees something in him … until he doesn’t.

Cameron breaks up with Phil because his ideal junior year — where he gets the leading role in the school play and has the best year ever — doesn’t have putting up with Phil in his plans. Phil is too loud, too aggressive, too … not the right kind of gay. Phil isn’t polling well with Cameron’s fans. His audience doesn’t know why Cam is with Phil and, it seems, neither does Cameron. So Phil’s out and Cam’s looking for someone better for his image and reputation, and Phil is pissed.

A chance meeting has Phil connecting with Ronnie, Cam’s ex-girlfriend, the one he dumped for Phil. The one whose life was ruined by Cameron’s friend squad, whose reputation was run through the dirt for not knowing her boyfriend was gay. She hates Phil for his part in it, but she hates Cameron more. Enlisting the help of the smartest boy they know, class president Jackson Pasternak, Phil and Ronnie enact a plan of revenge to bring Cameron Ellis down, and his skwad of sycophants with him.

Love makes strange bedfellows, but revenge makes best friends.

This book is just plain fun. Yes, there are many predictable moments — especially if you’ve seen teen shows and movies like Mean Girls, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, Carrie — but that adds to the charm. Especially since every action taken by every character, be they the villains or the heroes of the book, comes with consequences. Grand declarations and great acts of public cruelty are met with actual, realistic repercussions, and I love it.

Philip is poor. He lives with a single mother who drinks, too often and too much, and who struggles with trying to get sober and get her life in order. Phil’s older sister has moved out and now he is in the parent role, taking care of his mother, cleaning up after her, covering for her. It leaves him angry, but not ashamed. His father is an aspiring comic who left his family to take his act on the road … and who used his family, their lives, their pains, and their messes, as part of his routine. Something none of them appreciate, especially when Phil is still struggling with being gay.

Cameron Ellis’ grand moment, romantic as it may have seemed, outed Phil before he was ready. Now, he’s the poor gay kid, the angry gay kid, the problematic gay kid — especially compared to the rainbow wearing Cameron with his family-friendly message of acceptance. Cameron pushed Phil into the role of boyfriend, and then dumped him, and Phil’s still struggling with how he feels about everything. Did he love Cameron, or the idea of Cameron? Was it the acceptance he wanted, the circle of Cam’s friends when he didn’t have any of his own?

And now there’s Jackson, Phil’s ex-best friend. The first boy he kissed, the first boy he came out to. His first love. Jackson is every adult’s idea of the perfect high schooler, active in every club, class president, grades a neat and orderly row of A’s, and able to chat comfortably with teachers and adults. He’s also fighting anxiety and struggling to understand himself, let alone anyone else. He’s always loved Phil, first as a friend and then as something more, something undefined. Jackson doesn’t know what he is, what label to give himself, and he knows he’s not ready to find one just yet.

Jackson has a powerful moment, baring his heart in a scene I think a lot of people will relate to, with his uncertainty, his insecurity, his fear, and his anger. It’s sad, it’s emotional, and it’s a beautiful character moment. Phil’s anger and pain are at a high boil for much of the book, but Jackson’s slow simmer is just as heady. The two of them have a great deal of baggage behind them, and need to work to get back to a place of friendship, let alone romance, but they do the work. They have the conversations, the ugly ones and the sweet ones.

For Jackson, Phil, and Ronnie, the chance to bring down Camreron, someone who hurt them and got rewarded for it, who did terrible things and got applause, to get revenge on the whole skwad is … fun. It’s addictive, having power over people, taking down Cameron’s friends and causing all of them as much pain as they gave Phil and Ronnie. Until it goes too far, until the people they’re hurting realize what’s happening and who’s behind it. Every action has a reaction and no one makes it out of this without some fallout. Some injuries will never be healed, some wrongs will never be righted, and … that’s life. But everyone ends up better than where they started with a chance to be happy (the main couple, and Ronnie, the people most affected by Cameron’s cruelty, do get their happy endings).

This book is just fun. The pace is a bit fast, months of prep or work are skipped past so the story can get to the action scenes, and the action scenes walk that fine line between being too Hollywood and fake and being just realistic enough, while still being cheesy fun. All in all, I had a great time reading this book, and if you like revenge dramas and romances, this is the book for you.