Author: Kieran Scott
Release date: 2nd September 2010 UK
Genre: Contemporary / Teen Chick Lit / YA
Target audience: 12+
Perfect, picturesque Orchard Hill. It was the last thing Ally Ryan saw in the rear-view mirror as her mother drove them out of town and away from the shame of the scandal her father caused when his hedge fund went south and practically bankrupted all their friends -- friends that liked having trust funds and new cars, and that didn't like constant reminders that they had been swindled. So it was adios, Orchard Hill. Now, two years later, Ally's mother has landed a job back at the site of their downfall. So instead of Ally's new low-key, happy life, it'll be back into the snake pit with the likes of Shannen Moore and Hammond Ross. But then there's Jake Graydon. Handsome, wealthy, bored Jake Graydon. He moved to town after Ally left and knows nothing of her scandal, but does know that he likes her. And she likes him. So off into the sunset they can go, right? Too bad Jake's friends have a problem with his new crush since it would make Ally happy. And if anyone deserves to be unhappy, it's Ally Ryan. Ally was hoping to have left all the drama in the past, but some things just can't be forgotten. Isn't there more to life than money?
She's So Dead to Us is the first book in a planned trilogy, with the second title, He's So Not Worth It, coming out in summer 2011.
When I first decided to read this novel, I was expecting a light read about teenage rivalry, cheerleaders and cute jocks. But the book surprised me very nicely: it was filled with high-school drama, serious issues and showed how far some spiteful people harbouring great resentment will go to crush their foes. Because the thing is, once your former best friend becomes your worst enemy, you are in big trouble.
Ally Ryan is a great heroine of this novel, showing both strength and vulnerability. She is sporty and smart, and just wants to be treated with friendship and respect because she is not responsible for her father's failure. A year and a half ago, her father made an unintentional mistake that cost the Ryan family all their fortune, and this same mistake affected their friends as well. They lost a lot of money (although not their entire fortunes, like the Ryans did) and the Ryans moved away without saying goodbye to their former best friends. Once a Crestie, a rich girl from Orchard Hill, Ally Ryan returns to Orchard Hill as a Norm, a middle-class girl with a mom who has to work for a living, instead of sitting at home and indulging in expensive mani-pedi. Ally is rejected by all her former friends and the only boy who is willing to accept her, Jake Graydon, can't do so publicly because he is a member of the same clique Ally once belonged to, but she is now an outcast and the object of their hatred. And, Jake lives in Ally's former house. The fact that her father left the family and no one knows where he is does not help Ally in the slightest.
Ally is a strong teenager who has been through a lot and she knows what she wants, but nostalgia hasn't left her, so she decides to trust her former friends in the beginning, only to realise that they have turned into her enemies and their leader is none other than Ally's former best friend Shannen Moore. When Jake Graydon, a member of Shannen's clique, shows interest in Ally, Shannen will stop at nothing to humiliate her former best friend. I truly enjoyed the intrigue building throughout the story. The Crestie girls kept surprising me with their bad intentions and their little revenge schemes. They are typical teenage girls, but with a lot of money and time on their hands. Instead of using it for something constructive, they concoct plans to destroy Ally, making her pay for what her father did and for daring to set her eyes on "one of them".
This "one of them" is Jake Graydon, a nice counterpart to Ally. Both of them are the narrators of the story. He is the boy every girl at school wants. He is very good-looking, sporty and arrogant, but with an essentially good heart. He likes to fool around with girls, but then he sees Ally and he's just not the same anymore. Ally is confident and sporty, but also vulnerable and romantic. It seems that these two people are too different to be together, but their differences are exactly what makes them perfect for each other. But things are never simple for them because it appears that Jake can't be both Ally's boyfriend and Shannen's friend. His greatest flaw is that, for all his supposed male bravado, he is still scared of what people will say.
Apart from the tense teenage drama, the reader can also read about family drama. Ally's mom would like to move on, but her husband disappeared and she cannot even divorce him. Ally has to deal with the fact that in spite of this, Ally's mom starts seeing someone and Ally feels threatened by the prospect of acquiring a stepfather and a stepsister, both of them being Cresties. Eventually, things begin to normalize and Ally finds herself accepting her new life - until Shannen delivers the final blow.
This novel is filled with drama, romance, hatred and revenge. It portrays teenage life realistically, spicing it up with extra drama and mean, scheming girls. Ally and Jake are well-written and likeable characters, but one can hardly feel any sympathy for Shannen. This girl has also experienced grief in her life and I would have expected her to be more mature, but she hurts people, even though she knows how pain feels. Although it is easy to hate Shannen, her character is well-constructed as well and she provides the reader with some good drama and entertainment in the novel. The plot is very engaging and it made me turn the pages fast. The novel ends on a great cliff-hanger that promises even more drama and tension in the upcoming sequel. I can say that I will gladly read the sequel when it comes out next year.
If you like young adult fiction and some good teenage and family drama, I definitely recommend this novel to you.
Becky says: Irena, thank you for your guest review. She's So Dead to Us sounds like a highly charged and entertaining drama. I can see that you really enjoyed it. Both our thanks go to Simon and Schuster for sending the book to review.