Ｒａｔｉｎｇ： ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
＊Ｎｏｔｅ：I received this book in exchange for an honest review
What if you saw something bad and no one believed you? At 13, Kate Elliot witnesses the abduction of her best friend. With no evidence to support her claim, and parents who want to put the situation behind them, Kate becomes obsessed with proving that the man just a few blocks away is responsible for Chelsea’s disappearance. Two years pass, and though the rest of the neighborhood is content to believe that Chelsea is just another runaway, Kate is unable to move on. Failing in school, failing to connect with her family and somewhat desperate, Kate takes matters into her own hands, breaking into the abductor’s household on multiple fact-finding missions. At first the police are lenient, using Kate’s traumatic backstory to overlook her offenses, but when Kate is caught breaking an entry one too many times her grace period with the San Jose Police Department finally reaches its breaking point.
Kate spends the summer of her 15th year behind bars at the San Jose Juvenile Detention Center. While incarcerated, Kate is approached by Mr. Humphries, the dean of a last chance high school for juvenile delinquents. Given the choice to finish out her time in juvie or attend Huntley and Drake , Kate chooses the latter. But as Mr. Humphries warned, Huntley and Drake is not an easy school. In addition to the academic challenges facing Kate, she must also learn to live and thrive among a co-ed society with only one thing in common: time spent behind bars.
✩ Kate’s development was one of the strengths of the book. She went from someone who was reluctant to meet others halfway to someone who genuinely invested her time and energy to improve herself, and who was willing to find a new way to deal with her past.
✩ Robyn was another interesting character, especially once she gets her reveal. The twist was something unexpected although I was a little disappointed that we didn’t seem to see much of her after. I don’t think we ever got any resolution between her and Kate either.
✩ I didn’t particularly care for Wanda at first; however, I liked the development in her character after her reveal. I feel like I could understand her better and sympathize with her.
✩ I really liked the idea of a school exclusively for troubled teens. It was probably the biggest reason I decided to accept this book for review.
It was the first time my name had been called over the PA system. “Elliot” sounded so stuck up. I wished I had a tougher last name. “Juarez” or “Torro”, maybe. Something that reeked of gang activity or at least petty theft. Instead, I had the type of name that made people question whether or not they wanted sugar in their tea.
✩ I think I enjoyed Wanda more in the second half of the book after her reveal.
Wanda however was not the silent type. She was loud and brash and if she gave a shit about something you knew about it.
✩ The cuts were also something I enjoyed in the book. I liked this pressure for the characters to not only improve but prove themselves useful to the school.
I had three months to go from academic loser to super genius academic mastermind, oh yes and find and develop a skill AND make a friend because quite frankly when it came to kick Wanda’s ass, I was gonna need someone to hold her arms behind her back.
✩ The development for Kate was also really smooth and I enjoyed watching her grow.
Maybe it was time to forget how things ended and remember what made her worth loving in the first place. I would do that. I promised myself I would… after I made him pay.
✩ I also liked the ending for this book. I think it was a good resolution in that you really wanted to know what happened, but you were also okay with not knowing because the most important thing was that Kate had turned into a better person.
I ached for friendship that was here and now. For the first time in a long time I didn’t dream about the woods.
✩ Yes, the book could be a little cheesy, but I really did enjoy the messages in it.
Maybe I belonged here. Maybe it was time to move on and let go of the man in the big blue house. The problem was, letting go of him meant letting go of Chelsea and every time I imagined that, it felt like betrayal.
I think before I start my actual review I should say that I was a little worried going into this book based on the synopsis. I was mainly worried that the book was going to be going through all the events leading up to Kate going to prison–which would’ve been a bit annoying because the synopsis tells you everything already–but instead it begins with Kate getting the offer to attend Huntley and Drake. I know it bothers me when books go through everything a synopsis already told you in detail, so if you’re in the same boat you don’t have to worry about that!
I have to admit that I liked this book more than I initially expected to. I liked the premise of this last-chance school and was kind of expecting to read about some fights, bullying, maybe pranks—I was expecting drama, but I didn’t exactly get it (i.e. Orange is the New Black). Well, there was a little drama of another sort, and some bullying. For the most part, everyone in the book was just trying to honestly get through cuts—when the school decides if you’ve done well enough to give you a permanent place (in three months).
Each of the new students gets placed in a “barrack” until cuts. Luke and Jordan are the male leads for the two male student barracks, and Sydney is the lead for the female student barrack–which will be Kate’s new home for at least three months.
Wanda immediately set herself up as the bully, the mean girl, in the story. She had her typical little followers that backed her up whenever they picked on someone. Even then she didn’t have too many big moments of actually picking on anyone. She was also really into making jewelry, which I thought was an interesting hobby to give her for cuts.
I also liked Hayden because he was easy-going, a bit of a flirt, but also loyal to his friends. He helped Kate out with her schoolwork and also helped her and Robyn later on.
Robyn was a bit interesting as well. Kate really needed a friend after everything with Chelsea and she eventually let Robyn start to fill that gap. They could have fun at times, and jokes about things, but Robyn also had a tendency to make Kate do things she didn’t want to.
More importantly than just the characters, was the way that they changed. You could never really take a character at face value. You didn’t know if their reputation really matched who they were, or what kind of trouble or guilt they could be carrying around. I actually really enjoyed this aspect of the book. I liked getting to know a character and having my image of them completely changed by a big reveal or getting to understand them better because of it. The only downside to this, I think, was that when the big reveal happened it could be a little tedious to read through (essentially) a monologue from whoever was doing the storytelling.
I also really liked seeing the development in Kate from a “deviant” into someone who was giving it her all to get a permanent place at the school. She might not have necessarily been the best academically, but for once she was trying. She grew into someone who was willing to try a different way to get justice, and I liked the maturation in her.
There was also a little potential romance in the book between some characters, but it doesn’t take over the story. I actually really enjoyed that because for me the biggest strength of the book was its focus on character development.
The book could also be a little cheesy at times as well, but I still enjoyed it. And I mean cheesy in the sense that they had all these speeches/dialogue where the character was delivering an important message but not in a completely natural way.
Two things to be aware of with this book: formatting and grammar. I know most of the other reviews mentioned this book needing an editor. I wouldn’t say that it’s terrible enough to take away from the story, but there were some issues that needed fixing. I saw a couple simple grammar mistakes and misspellings, but probably the biggest problem with the book was just formatting. There were times when there would be giant paragraphs but there were clearly these giant gaps meant to be indents. Just for some reason, it got smushed together. I can understand someone finding this so annoying they can’t enjoy the story but, at least for me, it wasn’t enough to stop me from enjoying it.
Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it for people who like school-like settings.