Title: Underneath Everything
Author: Marcy Beller Paul
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher, Balzer and Bray, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review--thank you so much!
Relationships in novels fascinate me--a lot of the time, they're just as much a star as anything else in a book for me. I love novels that focus specifically on them, especially, because sometimes watching them unfold is like witnessing a star implode in the night sky: bright, searing, terrifying, and absolutely impossible to look away from. And this story is like that; once you begin, even as you begin to feel the terror escalate, you can't tear yourself away from it, even while you want to.
Underneath Everything tells the story of Mattie, a young woman who has had everything stolen from her. Her friends, her life, and most of all, Hudson, the boy she could've had, but doesn't. It all belongs to Jolene now, her oldest and closest friend, and the one she had to walk away from. And while she's on the outside looking in to what could've been, she has a secret, tucked way down deep that she cannot tell anyone: She never left Jolene in the first place. Caught in the web of the other girl's compelling, seductive manipulation, Mattie decides that she's going to take her old life back, until the two collide, with frightening and life changing results.
I've read books about toxic relationships before, and they've all rang of the same quality: Compelling, darkly thrilling, and even erotic. But this one is different. I felt sympathy for Mattie, pliable and easily manipulated, and her want to be accepted, all the while giving off the appearance of shedding what was left of her old life. At the same time, as the book went on, I was a little frustrated at the pacing of it, the eventual pattern.
And then, of course, there is Jolene herself, beautiful and confident and intoxicating, everything that Mattie is not and wants to be. To be honest, she terrified me. In a way, she was like a siren, not just to Mattie, but to the other characters in the book, Hudson and Kris, as well as her classmates, able to hold sway with nothing more than a sly smile and a bat of the eyelashes. And as she and Mattie intertwine, to the point where they see nothing but each other, it's like watching a bomb go off, or a massive explosion: terrifying, but so destructive you cannot hope to look away.
The bottom line: I loved this book, and its frightening, compelling, and oddly erotic premise--a must read for people who love books about friendships gone wrong--an amazing contemporary young adult debut not to be missed! Next on deck: Emma by Jane Austen!