Some secrets are too good to keep.
Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.
Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.
Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.
Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.
But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?
Tell Me More: Secrets are the most valuable of high school social currency, and Life by Committee is all about trading and burying them. Losing oneself in such a story isn’t as easy with an unsympathetic character, however, and the story doesn’t manage to raise itself above it.
Tabitha is an enigma of a character, and not always in a good way. The reasons for her sudden outcast status are murky, and leave a lot for the reader to imagine. It’s confusing at best and frustrating at worst. Though I could put off the frustration while reading, there were definitely points where it was hard to muster up any empathy for her. To an extent, teens can be oblivious to important things–it’s part and parcel of growing up. But Tabitha brought it to some unbelievable levels. Her love and appreciation for her parents comes in direct contrast with her actions later in the novel, and there just wasn’t enough set up that it would make sense. She’s still extremely compelling, and a longer, more detailed story would have served her well.
Life by Committee‘s titular group is more difficult to pin down. The subtle peer pressure they exert over their members is familiar, but there’s a more insidious nature to it. I didn’t enjoy seeing Tabitha lose herself to the group, even as one might argue that she needed to hit rock bottom before she could begin to climb back up again. The group promises to keep its members’ secrets, but continues to drive them further into isolation instead of constructive growth. Many of the issues that Tabitha struggles with are ones that could at least be acknowledged by communication, and it would have been interesting to see her struggle with that without the extra influence of the group.
And in the end, was all of the emotional torment necessary? It’s hard to say. Joe is not half as compelling as Tabitha, and I had a hard time believing that he was worth everything she went through. His motivations weren’t justified, and by the end of the book, I wanted nothing more than to see him disappear from Tabitha’s life.
The Final Say: Life by Committee is a polarizing novel, but one in which teens may find more to learn from than older readers.
Corey is an NYC-based young adult writer originally from the Boston area. Her first novel, OCD Love Story, was published by Simon Pulse.