From Goodreads: Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down.
This novel follows suit of the game telephone, showing just how much gossip promotes rumors and distorts the truth. It’s a great novel depicting a form of bullying that’s not addressed as much as the physical or taunting kind, showing how lies for selfish gain, or to protect oneself, can ruin another, whether intentional or not.
The entire novel, save the last chapter, is told from the perspective of Alice’s former friends/frenemies. Loner Kurt, football player Josh, former best friend and outcast Kelsie, and popular diva Elaine alternate chapters, spinning their tales and giving readers their “expert” take on events that, for the most part, none of them witnessed. And as they slowly work towards the truth of the matter, admitting to lies and other deceits for the sake of their wellbeing, it becomes clear that the events Alice is blamed for are not quite the truth at all.
Everyone in this novel has secrets. They hold grudges, make rash decisions, lie to protect themselves, and ultimately destroy Alice one way or another, and while some of them do it intentionally, others mean no harm, but their secrecy does just as much damage as those spreading lies. It is said that sticks and stones can break our bones, but words… can never hurt us. And yet, I think most people would agree that words do hurt, and they leave an unseen mark that can strip away one’s soul, and that is exactly what Alice is experiencing throughout the course of the year as the school runs rampant with gossip.
As much as I hated Josh, Kelsie, and Elaine (Kurt was perhaps the nicest and most understanding of all the characters), I loved the multiple perspectives. And the theme, the bullying, makes this an intense read. While no one technically physically bullies Alice—they don’t even really talk to her—ostracizing someone and spreading rumors about them is just as bad, if not worse, than saying it directly to their face. It’s a powerful statement that today’s generation really needs to hear and internalize, and I highly recommend this novel to tween readers and beyond.
The final chapter is told from Alice’s perspective, and it’s just… a perfect conclusion. I love that the novel ends on a positive note, that there is hope, yet it doesn’t undermine the effects that bullying and ostracizing had on Alice, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. It’s realistic and, in my mind, the perfect conclusion to a great story. Four stars.