Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time.
When Cole surprises her at the after party with a kiss under the stars, it’s everything Lucy has ever dreamed of… and the biggest BFF deal-breaker ever. Despite Cole’s lingering sweetness, Lucy knows they’ll have to ’fess up to Ellie. But before they get the chance, Lucy’s own Facebook profile mysteriously explodes with compromising pics of her and Cole, along with tons of other students’ party indiscretions. Tagged. Liked. And furiously viral.
By Monday morning, Lucy’s been branded a slut, a backstabber, and a narc, mired in a tabloid-worthy scandal just weeks before graduation.
Lucy’s been battling undead masses online long enough to know there’s only one way to survive a disaster of this magnitude: Stand up and fight. Game plan? Uncover and expose the Facebook hacker, win back her best friend’s trust, and graduate with a clean slate. There’s just one snag—-Cole. Turns out Lucy’s not the only one who’s been harboring unrequited love…
Tell Me More: Maybe I’m an old fuddy-duddy who isn’t titillated by gossip and drama, but despite my excitement and adoration for Sarah Ockler’s previous novels, #scandal simply didn’t hook me. The similarities to Gossip Girl may thrill readers, but they didn’t endear me to the story, and sadly, the characters weren’t memorable enough to carry the plot forward either.
Lucy is a nerd girl, lover of online gaming and zombie hunting–she’s actually pretty close to the kind of character I seek out in YA. She’s also in love with her best friend’s boyfriend, an infatuation that has lasted for most of her life. Lucy talks about this unrequited love quite a bit, and that is perfectly okay. It’s her lack of concern for her friendship with Ellie, and Ellie’s own request for Lucy to attend prom with Cole, that befuddled me. I couldn’t be sure Lucy was crossing lines she shouldn’t, because the ones I thought were obvious turned out to matter less to the characters. I found it difficult to sympathize with her when her concern was more for her reputation than the people she had already hurt with her actions. I didn’t understand her love for Cole because I didn’t know enough about him to see why she would love him. Lucy, Ellie, and Cole all acted in ways that didn’t make sense or seem realistic to me, but instead of surprising me, they only confused me.
Adding to the confusion was the sheer number of characters to keep track of in the first chapter. It begins in media res, but I spent more minutes than I thought I would trying to remember who was who. It got so bad that halfway through, I couldn’t even remember Lucy’s name.
Part of what interested me about this novel was the take on cyberbullying, but I couldn’t muster up the emotional investment to really get into this plot thread. No one deserves to be bullied, so I did appreciate Ockler’s effort to address how easy it is to be cruel to people, especially over the internet. But even as someone who was bullied, I found it difficult to feel a connection to Lucy, and I’m still not sure why.
The Final Say: #scandal takes on a wide spectrum of teenage troubles, but spreads itself too thin to make any of the plot threads substantial enough to stand on their own.
Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of novels for teens, including The Book of Broken Hearts, Bittersweet, Fixing Delilah, and the critically acclaimed Twenty Boy Summer, a YALSA Teens’ Top Ten nominee and IndieNext List pick. Her latest, #scandal, hits the shelves in June 2014.
Sarah is a champion cupcake eater, coffee drinker, night person, and bookworm. When she’s not writing or reading at home in Colorado, she enjoys taking pictures, hugging trees, and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex.