Publishers Weekly Review
The year is 1991, when teens didn't communicate through texts but through handwritten notes stuffed into lockers, desks, and mailboxes. In a novel that captures the lingo, fads, and teenage preoccupations of the period, actor and TV writer Boren makes a charismatic debut as he traces the ups and downs of Tara Maureen Murphy's life through notes exchanged between friends and enemies. Although Tara is dying to get out of her "two-bit town" and study acting at NYU, she intends to enjoy her senior year, getting star roles in the school's plays, being half of a "supercouple" with her hockey-player boyfriend, and reuniting with her best friend, who has been away for the summer. Things don't go as she expects. Tara's year is full of drama, but most of it occurs outside the theater. A brash, egotistical heroine determined to get what she wants at any cost, Tara suffers setbacks at every turn. Even if she doesn't win readers' hearts, she will make them smile with her conniving antics, sarcastic wit, and tremendous resiliency. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-Before email, text, and direct messaging, there was the good, old-fashioned folded note passed from one student to another in the halls, through lockers, or during the middle of class. First-time author Boren tells the story of South High School senior Tara Maureen Murphy solely through the notes she writes and receives during the early 1990s. This is a full-cast presentation with each note writer having their own narrator-a plus for the listener to keep track of characters in this unique take on the epistolary novel. Unfortunately, this is the only bright spot. As the letters themselves begin to blend together, the characters lose their realism and relatability and morph into one-dimensional caricatures. There's the shallow cheerleader, her put-upon best friend, the misunderstood popular girl, the egomaniacal jock, and the sweetly naive freshman. This listen becomes tedious after only the first hour, especially with Tara, whose whiney voice and vanity never allow for her to be sympathetic or fully realized. The nostalgia of the '90s is used mostly as an accessory and does not enhance the plot. VERDICT Teens looking for realistic high school stories set in past decades would be better served looking to classics by Judy Blume, Walter Dean Myers, and Paula Danziger.-Shari Fesko, Southfield Public Library, MI © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
In the age before Snapchat and Instagram, Tara Murphy rules South High's social scene armed with only her pen and strategically hidden notes. By senior year, she has attained everything she wanted a popular boyfriend, big-city college prospects, and a ruthlessly groomed reputation. This changes when freshman Matt Bloom upsets her delicately constructed hierarchy by winning the lead in South High's production of Grease. What follows is a manipulative game to exert control over Matt along with everyone else, friend and enemy alike. Written entirely in notes passed between students, this '90s-era epistolary novel starts out light and fluffy. It grows darker, however, as Tara's megalomania increases. Through multiple points of view, Boren slowly unveils the social fabric of South High, leaving subtle clues about events that happen off the page. The structure succeeds admirably at creating a narrative that is funny and disturbing. There are references to characters having sex, though nothing graphic is depicted. This is a great read for slightly older teens who want a glimpse into the increasingly distant though not so different ­past.--Suarez, Reinhardt Copyright 2018 Booklist