Skip to main content

They Wish They Were Us: YA Book Review

 


They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

TW: Murder/Death of a Teen (off page generally), violence, brutal initiation tasks, attempted sexual assault (on page but brief; it gets stopped)

Overview: Jill has always felt uneasy about being a Player. She worked hard and endured plenty of initiation torture to win her place among the elite group of high schoolers at Gold Coast Prep, but there's a sick feeling in her stomach as she finally takes her senior crown as one of their leaders. Maybe it was because of the brutal treatment she endured, maybe it was because her best friend Shelia died suspiciously initiation night. A fellow Player, Shelia's boyfriend Graham, got blamed for the murder before the night was over. That should be three years in the past, but a text from Rachel, a former player and Graham's sister stirs up all of Jill's questions again. Overall: 4

Note: I heard about and read this book because Halsey and Sidney Sweeny will be staring in the adaption of this book as a limited series. When the news dropped, I covered it on my music blog, so for more about the book, the show, the announcements, and some inside looks, check out that article. 

Characters: 4 All of the characters are interesting. They fit a lot of the typical prep school archetype, but they all have their own secrets that make them human and flawed and complex. There's an interesting mix of personalities happening among the players. There's the artsy guy, the field hockey girl, the confident one, the theater kid, the spoiled rich boy. I liked getting to see where all their personalities started as freshmen in the flashbacks and how they either hardened or shifted after their initiation year. Nikki got more confident and Jill grew more steady. None of them have ever had to fall besides the initiation pops that seem like the worst of sorority initiations. With cheat codes, prestige, and rich parents (for most of them) means that the world is laid out on a silver platter. The book takes a deep look into the ramifications of that. 

We see it all through Jill's eyes, which is a choice I appreciated. Jill is probably still the softest of the players. Her empathy hasn't been knocked out of her. She doesn't delight in inflicting the same pain that she endured on the freshmen, and she's insistent on changing how the Player's operate. Besides Nikki, Jill was the closest to Shelia, and that left a mark on her. It's why she's so determined to make sure the end of Shelia's story is correct. It's why she listens to Rachel when she reaches out again. Rachel has been dealing with the murder resting on her brother's shoulders and the Player's guilt for a while. She rushed through Cornell and escaped to NYC where she could be anonymous. Rachel's been written off by Gold Coast, but Jill places trust in her. The senior players have their own stories that are just as twisted. There's a shocking number of characters that get developed through the book. 

Plot: 4 I'm not sure if it was me or the book, but it took me a while to get through this one. I found the writing to be dense, but that built that atmosphere. It just read slower. Also, every chapter is packed with a detailed flashback, so that slows down the plot as well. They're all important to understanding everything that's going on, but it'll slow you down too. As far as the mystery goes, my gut had it solved from the first third. I don't knock books for me figuring it out ahead of the reveal (though I tend to be pretty bad at it) because that means the clues were laid out, but if you like a surprise, I don't think you'll find one here. It's more about the journey than the destination. 

Spoiler (no names revealed): The final conflict scene has that classic confrontation scene where they go to tape the confession and then get beaten up and wake up in the hospital. That scene is so played out, I didn't find it super interesting, and I did knock my rating for that. It could've been more creative.

Writing: 4 I liked the book. The atmosphere is great, and I think I need one good prep school murder mystery a year. Last year it was People Like Us. And as a book in that vein, it delivered. I liked that there was also a lot of focus on the Players and the toxic environment there. I find it fascinating how humans seem to be inclined to force the suffering they endured on others as redemption or something because I so don't understand that impulse, and that is thoroughly explored here and a major theme. I liked that focus more than I liked the mystery through-line. 

Most of all, I think it'll make a great, creepy, Riverdale-esque drama (please let it be more cohesive). As a mini series, I'm hoping they'll be able to dive into all the nuance in the book. I can totally see Halsey as Rachel, the mysterious former player, and I'm excited to see Sydney in a non-Euphoria role. 

More About The They Wish They Were Us Adaption: The Player's Table

Learn About Halsey's Role and Everything We've Learned About the Show So Far

Back To The Badlands Book Tag

Subscribe On YouTube

Reacting to Sasha Sloan's New Album Only Child

Find Your Fall Soundtrack: Fall Playlist


Links of Interest:

Grown

This Is All Your Fault Tour Stop

Swimming Lessons

Into YA with Kristina Forest 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

YA You Need To Read: April 2021

It's already April! School has been super super hectic, and I'm starting my old job as a bookseller again, so I haven't had much time for reading lately (ironic, I know), but I did want to talk about some books coming out in April that I can't wait to read (one day) that might inspire you to pick them up. I particularly can't wait for My Epic Spring Break Up! It's been on my list for a while now (I mean, look at that cover), but I also found some new books that hadn't been on my radar while browsing around the internet that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Let me know in the comments what April books you can't wait for!  Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Kahn  April 6th Zara has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. She's always dealt with the Islamophobia that's rampant in her high school, but when the star football player gets suspended, Zara becomes the target of a racist attack by the rest of the team that puts her and her family'

Once Upon a Quinceañera

Once Upon a Quinceañera   by Monica Gomez-Hera Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC so I could share my honest thoughts with all of you! Overview: Carmen hasn't graduated high school, even though it's the summer after senior year. When her senior project fell through, Carmen has to scramble to complete the project over the summer. That means no college (not that she applied) and no future plans beyond becoming a Dream (floating around in a Belle costume at children's parties) with her best friend Waverley. So maybe it's not the summer Carmen wanted, but it's fine. At least until her ex-boyfriend who ruined everything, Mauro, also shows up on the team and then they get assigned to work her nemesis and younger cousin's quinceañera, which becomes the big event of the summer. Nothing ever quite goes to plan for Carmen, does it? Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I enjoyed hanging out with Carmen for a while. She's super witty and cynical in a way that I

Olivia Rodrigo'a SOUR As YA Books: Track By Track

This list turned out to be much harder to make than I anticipated when I came up with the idea last week. I set out to match songs to SOUR because what goes better with an album written by a 17/18 year old than YA books, but it turns out that YA books are just too hopeful for this album. Unlike many of these songs, I couldn't find books where the characters ended the book totally despondent and broken up. It took a bit of brainstorming, but I think I found a book to match the essence of each SOUR track. Le me know in the comments which songs on SOUR are your favorite. Mine are "brutal", "favorite crime", "deja vu", and "jealousy, jealousy".  1. "brutal" : War and Speech   by Don Zolidis War and Speech just radiates the same badass, discontented with teenage life energy as "brutal". This was the first book that popped into my mind when I thought about making this post. Just look at the cover. Sydney's life has been fa

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi: YA Book Review

  Yolk  by Mary H.K. Choi Overview: Jayne is in fashion school in NYC. Well, she's enrolled. It's debatable how often she actually attends. June has a fancy job in finance, or that's what everyone thinks. But when June gets cancer, the estranged sisters are pulled together because June needs Jayne's identity to get treatment. By pretending to be her sister to get the life-saving procedure, June is forced to come clean and pull Jayne back into her orbit. Though their relationship stays rocky, they're suddenly glued together, forced to admit that their respective glamorous lives are actually filled with roaches and trauma and missteps. Overall: 5+++ This book made me happy cry (that's never happened while reading) and sad cry. Characters: 5 The book is told from Jayne's perspective in an extremely close first person. This book has plot. Things happen in the way that life happens, but it's mostly just characters getting split open and probed for all their w

My First Time Trying a Book Box: Literati Luminary Book Club Review

I am incredibly excited for today's blog posts because I'm working with Literati to share my experience with their Luminary Book Club. If you've been keeping up with my posts, I recently talked about how book clubs are an amazing way to fend off a reading slump, especially when life gets super hectic, and even with a super long TBR, I've still felt lost when I go to pick out my next read. I'm so grateful to Literati for sending me a book box and sponsoring this post!  On top of feeling stuck with choosing what to read, I've also been trying to explore more genres and the world outside of YA. YA has been my home base for so long that I always get overwhelmed trying to figure out what I want to read in other genres. Luckily, Literati had just what I needed. I got the chance to choose from 13 different book clubs all curated by Luminaries who are amazing, award winning writers, thought leaders, and artists you most definitely know like Malala and her Fearless cl

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Adult Literature Reviewed

  Everything I Never Told You  by Celeste Ng (Just a warning, this review will have some degree of spoilers cause I don't know how to write a full review without them) Overview: Lydia is dead. Just turned 16 and already gone. With no close friends to point to a possible explanation and no leads, her family is left confused, forced to confront a world without their favorite daughter. Instead of a murder mystery, what unfolds is a heartbreaking story of a family in 1970s Ohio forced to confront every tiny, fractured web that led up to Lydia death. Bouncing around with no bounds for time, space, or narrator, we hear stories from Nath, Lydia, and Hannah's childhoods, Marilyn's young adulthood, and Jame's struggles to rise through the ranks as a Chinese American professor in small town Ohio. What it leaves is a heartbreaking portrait of how little we might truly know about the people we sleep in the same house with every single night. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 This is a hard

What's on my YA TBR: September 2021 Edition

September is always a magical, busy time in bookland because there are always a million books releasing to get ready for the holiday rush. That's how this list wound up featuring 7 books. There are a couple like Never Saw You Coming  and As If On Cue  that I've had my eyes on for almost a year, and then there are some new discoveries that I'm super super excited about. From heartfelt contemporaries to K-Pop to a musical anthology and a summer camp of animators, there's something for everyone on this list. I haven't been this excited about a TBR of books in a while, and I'm sad that with starting school, it'll probably take me a while to get through them, but I'm hoping my local library will pick up copies soon. Speaking of which, I have tons of new libraries to explore around campus! As always, I want to make it as easy as possible to preorder these books and connect with the authors who wrote them! If you click the link in the title of each book, it wil

Fresh by Margot Wood: YA Book Review

  Fresh  by Margot Wood Get a Copy (this is an affiliate link. purchasing through this bookshop link helps support indie bookstores and this blog at no cost to you) Overview: Elliot isn't really sure why she's going to college. It's the next step that people take in life, I guess. She also isn't sure why she's at Emerson. It sounded better than Ohio State. She has no plan, no clue and how to approach college life. Quickly, Elliot gets sucked into a whirlwind of all the worst college tropes- the endless cereal bar, hooking up with everyone in the Little Building, not paying attention in any of her that classes she doesn't really want to be in anyway... the list goes on. She quickly forms a tight group of friends on her floor, but even those connections get tested as the year progresses. Eventually, Elliot is forced to realize that she needs to care about the academic side of college, and she craves closer connections than a trail of hook ups. Elliot, like most co

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha