Thursday, 11 January 2018

Review: 'Bad Girls with Perfect Faces' by Lynn Weingarten

It has only been the past few years, almost simultaneously with ageing out of teenhood myself, that I truly allowed myself to indulge in Young Adult drama of the high school kind. The one where everyone is under eighteen and yet everyone speaks like they have the vocabulary of a mature grown-up. Sometimes this leads to me reading absolutely brilliant books, like Girls on Fire which rocked my world, or books that slightly let me down, like Girl in Snow. And so I continue with this genre, down this path of hit and miss, and Bad Girls with Perfect Faces is the latest to meet me on my way. Thanks to Egmont Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 11/01/2018
Publisher: Egmont Publishing; Electric Monkey
No one is good enough for Xavier. Not according to Sasha, his best friend. There's nothing Sasha wouldn't do to protect Xavier from getting hurt, especially by his cheating ex Ivy, who's suddenly slithered back into the picture. Worried that Xavier is ready to forgive and forget, Sasha decides to do a little catfishing. She poses as a hot guy online, to prove cheaters never change. 
But Sasha's plan goes wrong fast, and soon the lies lead down a path from which there's no return . . .
Bad Girls with Perfect Faces is the kind of book you devour in a single sitting, racing through the pages as time flies by, until it's done. And then you just sit there for a second, finally taking the time to actually consider what it is you've just read. A lot of things about Bad Girls with Perfect Faces are pretty straightforward, especially considering its genre. You've seen it before. boy and girl, or girl and girl, are best friends, only friends, or are they? And suddenly there is the ex again, who is a terrible person, making this a love triangle. Now our main girl has to protect her friend, but how? By doing something stupid, something she will definitely come to regret. And welcome to the downward spiral, as all the teenagers involved see their lives slipping down a slippery slope of silly mistakes and regrets. Why is this so entertaining, I ask myself as I read this same plot over and over again, breathlessly turning the pages. There is something addictive about the adrenaline-fuelled mess that is being a teenager, when everything feels dramatic, especially when it is in the hands of a gifted author who manages to make the plot feel new again. And that is the case with Bad Girls with Perfect Faces. It is by no means revolutionary, but Weingarten manages to make it exciting nonetheless. Was I surprised by the novel's plot twists? Not entirely, but did I enjoy going down this rabbit hole again? Definitely!

I always feel slightly dirty after books like Bad Girls with Perfect Faces. None of the characters are truly likeable, all stuck in that teen mindset where everything is horrendous and everything is about them. I saw another reviewer, Parajunkee, comment on how Bad Girls with Perfect Faces struck an odd balance between mature/immature throughout and I couldn't agree more. On the one hand Weingarten's characters are incredibly immature children with no thought for those around them, on the other hand some of the novel's themes, the emotions its characters felt, were surprisingly deep. However, I do think that the limits of the genre hold most of these novels back from really saying anything too profound. There is so much drinking, pill-popping, absentee parents, lack of school, sex and swearing that I hardly recognise it as the world of a seventeen-year old. Sure, that could be me, but it's still odd. Also, why are only the girls going down wrong paths, seemingly? Why are they the ones excelling at crazy while the boys remain floating, occasionally boringly, in calmer waters? Perhaps this is partially why I find the genre so fascinating, because it always comes back one way or another to the high drama of being a young girl, of being a growing woman loving and fearing and losing. And Bad Girls with Perfect Faces does capture the utter fear of losing something or someone perfectly.

I hadn't read Weingarten's wildly popular Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls so I didn't quite know what to expect going into Bad Girls with Perfect Faces. As I said above, I was sucked into the novel straightaway, she captured me in that way only YA fiction can. Weingarten excels at writing the kind of fiction that speeds up, where every sentence is leading to the next one. There were some things about the writing that threw me off, how one narrator's chapters were in first person and how another's were in third, which were probably done on purpose but felt a bit off. I really enjoyed how Weingarten incorporated social media messaging into the novel, tapping into how we're simultaneously more honest and more deceitful online. Towards the end of the novel a different narrator joined in and their narration really didn't work for me. Although I can see why Weingarten made certain choices regarding how they relayed their feelings it went too far over the immature/mature line for me and felt a bit dramatic. This kind of reflects on the whole end of the novel, where things seem to just get more and more convoluted past the point of the believable. However, I still couldn't put Bad Girls with Perfect Faces down and will definitely keep my eyes open for future books by Weingarten for that adrenaline kick her writing gives me.

I give this novel...

3 Universes!

I enjoyed Bad Girls with Perfect Faces a lot, even if there were things here and there I didn't enjoy. The novel is a rush and will capture you straight away with its high drama and calmer moments of contemplation. The mess of teenhood is captured brilliantly and I'd recommend this to anyone who likes Young Adult and Suspense fiction.

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