Bullying, teenage sex (off-screen), violence, war gore, cheating (off-screen), overdose
Biracial (Saskia), Ghanaian (Saskia's mom), Gay (Lila), Japanese-American (Josh)
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Chandra Prasad, Books Forward, and Soho Teen for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
Yo… this book was a wild ride. I’m still trying to process everything that happened because wow. I don’t know what I was expecting, and I don’t know whether or not it was a good thing, but it was definitely interesting.
Let’s start with why Saskia is in a new town. First, she and her dad had to move to Coventon because the aftermath of the scandal of her mom cheating on her dad with her substitute teacher somehow made the whole neighborhood not want to deal with the family. I didn’t realize word could spread so fast, but I guess when the woman is twice the age of the man, and the man is the daughter’s sub in high school…. I mean, it’s not worse than a high school teacher dating one of their students though, right? That was a Pretty Little Liars reference; enjoy the gif.
Anyway, this fallout of losing all of her friends and having to somehow make friends in a new school has really taken a toll on Saskia. It shows a lot later on in the book when you see her making really, really, really unwise decisions when it comes to the Mercury Boys Club – most especially where Paige is concerned. But I’ll get to that. Saskia was able to make one friend, Lila, and oh boy honestly Saskia did not deserve Lila’s forgiveness. I know it’s not about deserve, but the things that Saskia made Lila do out of friendship was not so good. I was actually proud of Lila for standing up to herself and telling Saskia that she didn’t think they should be friends anymore because she was taking advantage of her. She definitely right, and to the point that livelihoods are at stake!
"Just don't ask me for anything else, okay? It's beginning to feel like you're taking advantage."
I’m glad that Saskia was finally able to see that in herself, see why whenever Paige said “jump”, she’d ask “how high?” From the moment that Saskia met Paige, she was enamored with her and just felt like she was so nice. And to have Paige as a friend was just unbelievable to her. Of course she wouldn’t want to jeopardize that friendship when she was feeling so alone before. And of course she trusted Paige because Paige was an excellent manipulator. Honestly both Paige and her sister Sara Beth but Sara Beth didn’t hide behind benevolence. I think that was the scariest part of this story for me: how much power Paige and Sara Beth had over Saskia and Adrienne (not so much Lila, which I’m happy about) and how dangerous they were without the other girls either realizing it or standing against it. Saskia and Adrienne were so impressionable that things could have ended so much worse than it did in the book. I mean… I can’t say anymore than that.
Saskia hadn't realized how desperately she'd needed reassurance and validation.
Trust me, Saskia. I get it. I’m the same way.
I did enjoy the historical fiction aspect about this though, although after it ended I’m wondering if everything that happened really did happen, if that makes sense. I explored Prasad’s book website and she included some of the photos of the daguerreotypes that the girls saw on her page. It gave me a better sense of who these men were, and what may have attracted them to those people in the first place. Here’s the website if you want to take a look: my favorite one was of a man named Yone Noguchi. I’ll put him here for our viewing pleasure, but definitely get
I feel like the climax of this book was still left unresolved? Like, yes its finally revealed about everything involved with the Mercury Club Boys, but then… that’s it? I felt like there should have been more to it. Mostly I feel like a lot of punishment should have been involved – since Paige and Sara Beth so enjoy punishment, right? – because the things that went down here were not okay. I also felt like the ending was also rushed in a sense, because the time lapses were huge compared to the rest of the book. If this book mostly took place over the summer, by the time it ends I believe Saskia is about halfway done with her senior year? If that, it felt like it could have been longer. So much was packed in the summer because of the MCB and I understand that, but I wouldn’t have included a lot of the ending because it didn’t really resolve anything. That’s just what I think though. Although the ending really solidified for me that Saskia’s mom is truly selfish and didn’t really care about her daughter in the way that she needed to. It’s a shame, but it is what it is I guess?
Others have mentioned that the execution of this plot could have been better. I understand that. I personally would have loved to learn more about the men they were seeing in their dreams – especially since they were all from different time periods and places so we could get a “local” insight from all of them. All in all though, I think this was an okay book. Lila really brought it home for me, and quite frankly I think everyone deserves a Lila in their lives because wow. She really was an amazing friend to Saskia, and that’s that.