Goodreads synopsis: High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.
I was hesitant to read this book because I’m not particularly interested in male perspectives. (This is not to say that I think all YA books should be from a female perspective. All perspectives are important. I just prefer to read stories told by females because obviously I can relate to them better.) I read it because I want to read all of LHA’s books and all of the books in the Penguin Group imprint named after my favorite book, Speak. This book went as I thought it would–it was less interesting to me because of the male perspective but it was still excellent because it’s LHA. As a feminist I understand that men are affected by misogyny as well as women. Tyler is struggling with thoughts of suicide on two levels. Besides the fact that he can’t stop these thoughts, he struggles with his masculinity in relation to them. He is feeling things that society has told him are not for men. He has to unlearn these sexist thoughts and come to terms with the fact that it’s okay for him to feel sad and scared and it’s okay for him to need help. I also enjoyed going through his moral struggles, like when he chose not to take advantage of Bethany. In my head, I was like, “You know what’s right, Tyler. You can do it. You can walk away from her.” And I was not disappointed. I felt like the character development was very clear. I am impressed with LHA for attempting a male perspective. I can’t say whether or not she did an accurate job because I’m not a teenage boy, but it was believable for me.
Tyler’s father is the worst character and also the most interesting. I was really on the edge of my seat waiting for him to blow up and hit Tyler or Tyler’s mother. I was actually hoping this would happen, because I wanted a scene with Tyler’s mother either kicking him out or leaving with her children. LHA did not give us this, but she did give us a breakdown/reconciliation with Tyler, and that scene was pretty good. I felt most strongly for Hannah because I know what it’s like to have a mentally ill sibling (and to be on the other side of that, of course), and I could feel her confusion and her fear. I thought the fact that she was dating her brother’s best friend was a little cliche, but I understand LHA’s need to condense characters and keep them all very closely involved, so it worked.
The writing was amazing as it always is with LHA. It’s a nice balance of funny and serious. I’m also a big fan of short chapters. This book wasn’t a favorite or anything, but I’m glad I read it.