Tabitha is a bookish high school girl with an odd relationship with her parents, an internet romance with a classmate, and only one friends. She used to have 2 besties since childhood, but when she jumped a cup size, they decided she had changed and they could no longer be associated with her. Who knew that becoming attractive would make her less popular? She spends her nights IM-ing Joe, a classmate who she is falling hard for. The problem? Joe has a girlfriend, a fragile girlfriend he loves and can’t bare to leave. Just when Tab thinks she can’t hold in the joy she feels when Joe confesses her feelings for her, she finds Life By Committee, an internet site that pushes her limits. It’s simple, reveal a secret, received a challenge. You have 24 hours to complete to challenge to keep your secret or risk exposing it to the rest of the world. She quickly becomes obsessed with this site and all it’s other members. But when does a challenge go to far? Kissing someone else’s boyfriend? Smoking weed with your father? Exposing some else’s secret? Soon Tabitha will have to choose whether this community is really worth all she puts into it.
Tabitha was someone that I identified with quickly. How can I not identify with someone who shares my name? She’s so lonely and doing things that aren’t right and her life is more or less falling apart, but she’s just trying to continue to push forward. She is more hurt by her old friends betrayal than she’ll ever let on, but how can she allow them to put her down? She hasn’t changed at all, just her bra size and her desire to wear makeup. Is wanting to be pretty so wrong? I wanted to simultaneously hug her and slap her, because this “relationship” with Joe is bad, really bad. He’s never going to leave his girlfriend and it’s clear to anyone else that she’s just a hookup who doesn’t know it yet. Once she becomes embroiled in Life By Committee, there was no putting this thing down. The challenges and other peoples secrets and challenges and successes and failures were just as intoxicating to me as they were to Tab. I wanted to know more. I needed to see how these people’s lives turned out.
The more you go in, though, the more you question Life By Committee’s leader. The main guy that hands out the challenges start asking for impossible things. These challenges seem to help some of the members, but how far is too far? Proposing after a single week together? Flying across the world to ask a guy out? Turning a family member in for drug abuse? When do you call a halt to the shenanigans?
Many things in this novel called my interest. Tab’s relationship with her parents is so intense and different than any other I’ve read. Mommy is pregnant again, determined to “do it right” this time, which just begs the question “what did you do wrong before?” Tabitha seems to have turned out well enough, so why change something that’s not broken? Their relationship goes from awesome to abusive and then back to awesome. It was intense and different and far from perfect.
I also loved the idea of “active reading.” As much of a reader as I have always been, I have never approached a book like she did here, highlighting and note taking and commenting in the margins. Writing in a book has always seemed a bit sacrilege to me. But I love the idea of finding a marked up copy that makes you feel like you are sharing an experience with another anonymous reader. I’m gonna have to find a copy to used copy to markup and see how I feel. I worry that taking notes and such will pull me out of the story, but I am willing to try!
I was dying to get my hands on this novel as soon as I heard about it. I LOVED Corey Ann Haydu’s previous novel, OCD Love Story, which was the most realistic portrayal of OCD I’d ever read in a YA novel. I knew this would be just as amazing and I wasn’t disappointed. Haydu manages to write a perfectly flawed story with morals and meanings and still have a realistic ending that made me grin like an idiot. If you are looking for something amazing but a little different than your typical contemporary YA, this is for you!
****Thank you to Katherine Tegen Books for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****