From Goodreads: Cassandra fears rocking the family boat. Instead, she sinks it. Assigned by her English teacher to write a poem that reveals her true self, Cassandra Randall is stuck. Her family’s religion is so overbearing, she can NEVER write about who she truly is. So Cass does what any self-respecting high school girl would do: she secretly begins writing a tarot-inspired advice blog. When Drew Godfrey, an awkward outcast with unwashed hair, writes to her, the situation spirals into what the school calls “a cyberbullying crisis” and what the church calls “sorcery.” Cass wants to be the kind of person who sticks up for the persecuted, who protects the victims the way she tries to protect her brother from the homophobes in her church. But what if she’s just another bully? What will it take for her to step up and tell the truth?
I really enjoyed this novel, and I actually found it much more interesting that the synopsis itself makes it out to be. Not only is it about bullying, a hot topic in the nation right now, but it also deals with over zealous religion (borderline cult), intolerance and homosexual relations, advice columns, and the philosophical question of right and wrong. Honestly, I think this novel is extremely well written and while I wasn’t sure if I would really like it going in, I came out of it absolutely in love with Hoole’s writing style and characterization.
The novel begins with Cassandra attempting to take a survey during which time she realizes she’s completely boring. She has no great answers to any of the questions, not like her friends or even her sister, and so she struggles to make herself stand out. As the novel unfolds, each chapter is titled with one of the questions from the survey, launching into what Cassandra does in order to be different, and in my opinion, this technique really worked well.
Cassandra Randall has spent much of her life as part of an extreme religion/cult society within her small town, thanks to her overzealous parents. But, as her church and its members only make-up about half the town’s population, and as Cassandra continues to witness the vast differences between her life and those of others outside the church, she decides it’s time to put her foot down and rebel. After all, Cassandra doesn’t tend to believe anything her church is spouting, at least, she hasn’t for a while now, anyway. I once knew someone who had a family similar to Cassandra’s, and it’s a bit scary to think about. The extreme strictness and labeling of everything outside the Bible as evil is a bit much, in my opinion, and having actually known someone in a situation similar to Cassandra’s made it easy for me to connect with her. I understand her mindset and the need to rebel, which is ultimately what Cassandra is doing through her tarot reading and blogging, and while that may seem a bit extreme, it is indeed the perfect rebellion, even if she doesn’t actually tell her parents about it…
What I really loved, from the very beginning, was the characterization and voice of Cassandra. She is extremely unique and, like all high school students, struggles to find her identity. And while aspects of the novel may be far-fetched, I still really liked the overall message, especially as it isn’t neatly tied up with a bow at the end. Cassandra still has to grapple with her actions, her parents, her beliefs; and she has to own up to her actions, but in the end, it’s an extremely engaging story that I highly enjoyed and definitely recommend. Five stars.
Flux books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an this recent release, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.