ARC Review: Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen

Life UnawareLife Unaware by Cole Gibsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Regan Flay has been talking about you.

Regan Flay is on the cusp of achieving her control-freak mother’s “plan” for high school success―cheerleading, student council, the Honor Society—until her life gets turned horribly, horribly upside down. Every bitchy text. Every bitchy email. Every lie, manipulation, and insult she’s ever said have been printed out and taped to all the lockers in school.

Now Regan has gone from popular princess to total pariah.

The only person who even speaks to her is her former best friend’s hot but socially miscreant brother, Nolan Letner. Nolan thinks he knows what Regan’s going through, but what nobody knows is that Regan isn’t really Little Miss Perfect. In fact, she’s barely holding it together under her mom’s pressure. But the consequences of Regan’s fall from grace are only just beginning. Once the chain reaction starts, no one will remain untouched…

Especially Regan Flay.

Warnings: attempted suicide, bullying, mentions of homophobia, panic attacks

A book from the POV of a bully, Life Unaware has a good message, and does its best to speak it out. The book begins with Regan, the protagonist, apologizing for all that she had done and that pretty much tells us what the story is about – her learning about the consequences of her actions.

The popular girl in school as well as the daughter of a sitting Congresswoman, Regan has always been concerned with how she appears; thanks to her mother’s bullying she has an anxiety disorder that gives her panic attacks. Learning from her politician mom, she is not above using manipulative tactics to get what she wants. She participates in bullying her peers because it makes her feel better about herself, and also as something she does to belong in her circle of friends. However, when her texts are leaked to the school, and everyone sees her for the two-faced person she is, she is ostracized by all of them, including her best friend and other ally. The only one risking the censure to talk to her? Her best friend’s older brother and the guy who makes it a hobby to harass her. With his help, however, she begins to make a move towards atoning for her misdeeds as well as set an example for others to follow.

The best thing about the book is that it has an anti-bullying stance, and even with a bully as its protagonist, it doesn’t try to justify her actions or excuse it. Yes, she has mental health problems, but she also acknowledges that doesn’t do anything for the pain she has caused others, nor does her apology fix the things she broke in them. It touches on her anxiety disorder as the result of her mother’s dictating every aspect of her life and not seeing the harm she causes her daughter, and tries to resolve that part of the equation by having her mother realize that. As for the bullying part, it is a mild approach to atone, but its heart in the right place.

The romance, however, was my ‘yikes’ for the book. It was messy from the start, considering he is hounding her to see her ‘downfall’ and then appears like a knight in shining armor to console her when she is down. It is resolved in the ending way better than it was developed throughout the book, to be honest. I also felt his attraction to her was complicated, but then he learns about her anxiety disorder and suddenly decides he is sorry for judging her – which is kinda the opposite of the message the book was trying to send, that her mental illness was not the sole cause of her bullying. Also, it then derailed from the bullying thing to the romance angst and drama in the last third of the book. So, yeah there was that and then the whole mess with the outing thing, and let’s just say I saw some twists like the broadcast video coming.

Basically, the intent and the idea for the novel were sound, but the execution of the concept could have been better.

Is it diverse? The main character has an anxiety disorder; two secondary characters are queer.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Entangled Teen, via Netgalley.

View all my reviews

Buy links

Amazon | The Book Depository | Wordery

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