This was a straight up YA novel, no fantasy or sci fi or anything else, but it hooked me right away with the concept of a secret penpal writing to the new girl in school. Jessie moved to her new LA private high school after her mother died and her father remarried. The school is cutthroat, the girls are bullies (a bit caricaturized really), and Jessie doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere. But ‘Somebody Nobody’ begins emailing her to help her navigate her way through adjusting to the new school. She develops a crush on him, guessing at his identity, while also grieving for her mother, making new friends, and developing a crush on her English partner. I will say ***slight spoiler alert*** that it was obvious from the very first moment the English partner was introduced that he was Somebody/Nobody… and it was SO obvious that it was slightly annoying he was the only person Jessie never once considered.
While I loved the narrative voice, and was intrigued by the secret identity trope mixed with romance, I didn’t care for how the author normalized teen sex via conversations between Jessie and her friends. The author’s own worldview definitely comes through, and I can’t fault her for that of course–but it’s a message I personally find too pervasive and potentially damaging. I wish there were other popular YA books out there showing teens that there are different, and completely reasonable, ways to think, and they’re not total freaks for holding an alternate viewpoint. Still, if I overlooked that and some of the obligatory political correctness, it was a very enjoyable read.
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