Review: Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek

Pub. Date: September 1st, 2013
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
311 pages

I always try my best to remain spoiler free in my reviews – but this is one of the rare times that I will not be able to review without discussing some major plot points. If you want to remain spoiler free I suggest you skip this one!

When the school board changes zoning areas, Reyna Fey has to start freshman year at a different school than her three best friends. Hoping to not spend everyday completely alone, Reyna’s open to making friends, but sharp tongued, tell it like it is Olive Barton, wasn’t the kind she was expecting. Brought together first out of loneliness, Reyna slowly begins to consider Olive a real friend. But, everything changes when Olive comes out to Reyna, and Reyna responds in the most hurtful, painful way possible. Unaware how severely she has hurt Olive, Reyna submerges herself in a new relationship, and a new group of friends, abandoning Olive when she needs her the most. As the girls become more hostile than friendly, Reyna is forced to learn how one person’s actions and words can forever alter someone else’s life. 

I’m going to start by saying that I didn’t dislike this novel – but I don’t think it was as effective as other novels with similar subject matter. The first major issue I had with the novel was Reyna as the protagonist. Reyna ultimately bullies Olive, or in the least, stands by and allows others to bully her. She is not an entirely mean or unredeemable character, but a bully is not the kind of character I typically have interest in sympathizing with as a protagonist. The second issue that I had *** SPOILER*** was how the suicide of Grace, Olive’s friend, was handled. When Olive allows her family and friends to believe she was the one who laid down in front of a train – possible because Grace was wearing Olive’s clothes – I felt that Grace’s tragedy was minimized, and though Grace was also bullied, the point of how bullying can lead to suicide became less effective. As tragic as it would have been to have Olive actually commit suicide, it would have been true to the story, and realistic of the affects of bullying portrayed. I think in the end, how quickly Olive and Reyna forgive each other was too ‘alls well that ends well’. I didn’t find the ending to be realistic or true to the story being told.

I do think that the novel raised a good point about how if you’re silent, or a bystander to events like bullying, than you are a part of the problem, instead of a part of the solution. But I had quite a few issues with the presentation of the harder topics, and to be honest, I also didn’t find many redeeming qualities in the majority of the characters. I found myself angry at how the characters treated each other, which made me more unsympathetic and critical of everyone’s behaviors, reducing my enjoyment in the things about the novel that I did like.

Rating 5/10

** I received a copy of this novel from the publisher to read and honestly review. I was in no way compensated. 

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