Hey SWR Readers!!
I'm so excited to share the book review spotlight this month with a new monthly review contributor, Chiqui of Young Adult Book Recs!
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In looking for a new YA book to read, and wanting to take a break from fantasy or paranormal fiction, I skimmed the new releases list and came across an intriguing title (or non-title?), which is Enter Title Here.
Well, that’s a clickbait title if I’ve ever seen one. So I clicked.
And then I read the summary and skimmed the reviews and I thought: this definitely was a book for me. And, of course, I was right.
Let me start off with a warning: this book is not for everyone. The lead character, Reshma Kapoor, is ruthless, manipulative, and will do anything in her power to get what she wants. The very start of the book reveals she successfully sued her own high school when she couldn’t be a valedictorian due to their revised grading requirements. She wrote an article for the Huffington Post about it, even. And in the course of the novel she goes much, much farther than suing everyone that gets in her way.
But for me that’s what makes this book pretty unique and interesting. I finished this book in about under a week (only interrupted by my day job, and if I didn’t have that I would have finished this in half a day), just because Reshma is unlike any other YA character I’ve read so far. She’s a spoiled overachiever, single-minded in her goal of getting to Stanford, allowing herself no room for mistakes, setting herself up at such a high standard that nothing is enough for her. And if anyone tries to bring her down? She won’t stop until she destroys them.
Plus, she’s a POC lead. Yay for more representation in fiction!
Reshma’s not the typical pretty, popular mean girl, though: that’s reserved for the “perfects”, the students who are top of the class, involved in different extracurricular activities, and seen in the biggest parties. She’s far from fashionable (she wears flip flops to school), and she’s far from popular. In fact, she doesn’t think she has any friends, much less a boyfriend.
Which is a problem, because a literary agent’s read her article on the Huffington Post and offers to represent her, and Reshma’s book pitch is about overcoming her perfectionism and learning to enjoy life and treasure the people around her. But to write that in a convincing manner, she needed a friend, a boyfriend, and some experience with high school life other than studying 24/7.
So Reshma goes out to get what she wants, like she always does. Except that Reshma has zero intention of changing. She doesn’t believe in relationships and she doesn’t think that enjoying life is important. She just knows that she has to get the novel done, because having a literary agent is the key for her college application to stand out among the rest.
And believe me, she goes pretty far just to get into Stanford. She manipulates, uses, and tears down anyone standing in her path. I couldn’t stop reading; she’s such a trainwreck, and every scheme goes farther and more insane than the last.
But she’s not all evil and schemes, otherwise she’d just be a completely unrelatable character and I’d just have ditched the book three fourths of the way in. Despite how horrible she is, she has moments where she shows vulnerability, self-deprecation, and even genuine care for someone other than herself. They’re rare, but they do exist. And they are what makes her feel more human. Plus, the people she’s up against? Well, let’s just say that not all of them are sweet and innocent victims themselves.
I particularly like her friendship with Alex, one of the perfects, which started off as sheer hatred for each other, slowly evolving into genuine friendship based on brutally frank honesty. I also like how her relationship with her parents are complicated: she’s horrible to them, especially to her mother, but at the same time she wants revenge from the woman that stole her parent’s company right from under their nose. No doubt that her reason is mostly selfish too, as she thinks the woman destroyed her life, but saying that means that she considers her parents a part of her life that’s important enough to defend.
Her relationships with the boys she tries to grab in her quest to find a boyfriend are also nuanced; they’re not perfect, rosy, mushy romances. They encounter troubles, they’re sometimes sweet and adorable and sometimes terrible. It’s one of the more accurate portrayals of boyfriends and ex-boyfriends that I’ve read in YA fiction, so kudos to the author for that.
But I think what I’m most glad for is that her actions have consequences. The anti-hero does not get out scot-free in this book. She’s called out on her overall horridness, she fails miserably, she doesn’t (always) get what she wants in the end, despite all her scheming and manipulation. I won’t give away anything, except I will say that the consequences are pretty huge.
I do have a few qualms about this book that prevented me from rating it a perfect five though. For one, Reshma’s “change” (if you can call it that) is too abrupt for me. As in, I didn’t see it coming until it was there, right in my face, and I was left puzzled as to why it was even there, what happened, did I skip an entire page and do I need to re-read to see the dropped hints? The trainwreck can be off-putting sometimes too, like wow, if she’s so smart then why is she going that far and does she not know there is no possible good to come out of this?
The writing isn’t anything to rave about. It’s simple, it gets the job done, and I think the book needs that kind of writing because it’s not like Reshma’s a world-class poet or anything. It’s just a personal preference that I like more lyrical prose in my YA books.
So would I recommend this book? I honestly would, yes, but always with a warning that this might not be for everyone. Reshma is a hard character to swallow. There will be people who will despise her and possibly put the book down because of her. What I love about her character is what others might hate about her. All I can say is give this book a try and judge it for yourselves.
View all my reviews
More About Chiqui:
Hi, Iím Chiqui, a web designer, cat lover, and 30-something YA book addict. I'm also the owner of and writer behind YA Lit Reads, a young adult book review and recommendations website. I've been reading books since the glory days of Sweet Valley High and Goosebumps, and I hope to share with you my love for reading and fiction!