My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release date: December 31, 2015
Aubrey and her best friends made a pact to play by the guys’ rules when it comes to dating. They’re hoping the rules will keep them from experiencing high school heartbreak–they don’t realize that these rules could just as easily keep them from opening their hearts and minds. And when new boy Nathan Diggs moves to town, Aubrey starts to think that some rules are meant to be broken.
Aubrey is a senior and for her last semester, she decides to let go of stress and be the daredevil that her friends are. She and her three friends – Shelby, Danica and Melissa came up with their theories a year ago – rules by which they live and date, in a way that they can guard their heart from unnecessary pain. They consider themselves ‘evolved’ because they don’t need a guy, and having guys no strings attached comes with it’s own sort of freedom. No labels means no expectations and no conflicts. Everyone is fair game and they can’t hurt each other that way. Aubrey thinks it all to be easy-peasy and so would a reader. How hard can it be to suppress your emotions, after all? Aubrey finds this out the hard way.
When Nathan rolls into town, she gets dibs on him. He is charming and sweet and totally unaware of the pact these girls made. She has him all to herself for a while but when he starts mingling with the group, he also adopts their no-label philosophy, albeit with some amount of initial confusion. The fact that they think there is no drama this way, actually leads to plenty of drama. There is a lot of slut-shaming from the girls side too, even though they think themselves ‘evolved’. As things progress, Aubrey realizes the flaws in their theories, and even though she admits the theories are better than the original ‘girl code’, she also realizes that she is depriving herself of feeling things. Expressing any sort of attachment is forbidden and when she starts to feel more for Nathan, she is conflicted. She wants to be the evolved girl, but doesn’t want to lose him either. Realization comes in the form of her friend going for the kill, because everyone is fair game. And that is when Aubrey breaks down and realizes the biggest error in their theory – they made their own lives painful when they decided to suppress their feelings.
Though such a topic would probably seem teen drama-like, the author handles it in a very mature way. I found the writing rendered the concept beautifully, delving into the Aubrey’s thinking and bringing out her insecurities and fears in a way that you empathize with her. She is a gray-area person, full of faults and virtues, and so are the other girls. They may act mean, but they also care about each other. In fact, the characters are fleshed out so well, that it does not seem just like drama – it is a beautiful progression of each character’s journey. The ending was on an open note, but quite satisfactory and I appreciate the reality it presents rather than just giving a happily ever after.
Received an ARC from Harper Teen via Edelweiss. Receiving this copy does not, in any way, affect my opinions or the review.