Review: Life by Committee

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Title: Life by Committee

Author: Corey Ann Haydu

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publication Date: May 13, 2014

Goodreads / Author’s website / Author’s twitter

This book caught my eye at the library, especially after I’d heard such great things about Corey Ann Haydu’s other book, OCD Love Story, which I haven’t read yet. But Life By Committee sounded like just the sort of summer read I was looking for.

A brief summary from the author’s website:

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?

Tabitha is cast out by her friends when she begins to exhibit more typically feminine behavior in high school, which made me sympathetic towards her. She doesn’t quite understand why her friends dropped her like a hot potato (my guess is that jealousy was playing a part), and to be bullied by girls who aren’t popular in the slightest is something I haven’t seen much of in YA fiction. Friendless and struggling, she stumbles across an online community where the close-knit (and anonymous) members post secrets, then receive challenges they have to complete in order to keep their secrets secret.

I liked the concept – and I think that it did well showing what varied secret lives people can have and at what lengths they’ll go to keep those secrets from coming to light, as well as showing the psychological power of a community setting. One problem I had with this, though, is that everyone was anonymous, so how did they thing their secrets were going to get spilled in the first place? It didn’t make much sense, but if you glossed over the logistics, it was fabulous. Another downside of the book is that it felt too overly dramatic at times. I appreciated that Tabitha was a flawed protagonist, but some of the things she did and the ways she reacted were just plain stupid. Also, the relationship drama was over the top, big time.

That being said, I did love the struggles the characters faced while coming to terms with themselves. There’s one scene near the end of the book that was particularly striking – but I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just leave it at that. The mood of the book was intense but also funny, mostly due to Tabitha’s first-person voice.

I still have slightly higher hopes for OCD Love Story, but overall, this one wasn’t half bad. I read it in one sitting because I enjoyed the story so much – and while it was definitely fluffier than substantive, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a fun yet touching read.

4 out of 5 stars.

Tara

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