On the Bookshelf

At the Sun-Gazette, staff members tend to read. A lot. So we thought we would share what we’re reading and let you know how they fare.

Submissions from the community also are encouraged and may be mailed to the Lifestyle Department, 252 W. Fourth St., Williamsport, PA 17701 or emailed to life@sungazette.com.

Staffer: Tara D. McKinney, correspondent.

What I read: “Now You See Her” by Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Hope Shay, formerly Bernadette Romano, is a rising actress who has done a bunch of plays and a couple of commercials. She has been raised by a pushy stage mom and a mostly absent father. No one understands her because she is so mature and talented. Everyone knows she’s too good for the roles her small town has to offer so she goes off to fine arts boarding school. She falls for the male lead in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet and starts an affair with her much older co-star. At his insistence, their relationship is kept secret and much to Hope’s dismay, her carefully regimented life as a serious actress starts to unravel and to get things back on track she makes a huge miscalculation. Hope lays the blame entirely at her secret lover’s feet, but some parts of her story just don’t quite add up.

Stats: Published by HarperTeen, February 2008, 224 pages.

What I thought: At first, despite Hope’s snotty and self-absorbed attitude, I was sympathetic to her feelings of not belonging and understood why she chose to spin her lack of friends as really being more other people’s jealousy and low standards rather than her own diva personality.

The regimented schedule and rules of conduct set by her mother are clearly more about her mother living vicariously through Hope, than out of necessity. As the story progressed, the main character’s self-serving, snotty attitude and creepy obsession with her co-star became frightening. It was hard to tell when Hope was telling the truth or living in a fantasy world of her own making.

It became clear about two-thirds into the story that there was something off about the narrator and her relationship with Logan Rose, her Romeo. I became very unsympathetic to Hope’s plight once she put her little brother in a compromising position, which illustrated just how little she cared about how her actions affected other people.

The novel is a told from a first person perspective and reads as Hope’s journal. The reader doesn’t have any choice but to believe Hope’s version of her story, at first. I think the author was very skilled at keeping her audience guessing. It was hard for me to tell when Hope was delusional and when she was lucid.

I do feel that all people, teenagers especially, let their hormones guide them at times. Hope’s lead her down the rabbit hole and cause her put herself in a ludicrous situation. She and Logan fake her abduction in order to get her parents to pay a $20,000 ransom which will allow them to run away together after Logan graduates. This is “The Plan,” but things don’t go according to plan at all. Hope is expelled and Logan gets off scot-free. Hope paints herself as the victim and courageous heroine surrounded by villains and idiots. But is Hope’s perception of events reality or all in her twisted mind?

The plot draws attention to the strange phenomenon of people faking their own kidnappings like the New Jersey honor student who tweeted that a man was breaking into her house, the Texan woman who wanted a day off of work to buy a lottery ticket, and the lady from Southampton, Pa., who stole her friend’s ID and faked her own kidnapping so she and her 9-year-old daughter could go to Disney World.

It makes you wonder what could have gone so wrong in these people’s lives to make them so desperate for attention that they would waste law enforcement’s valuable time and money. Public sympathy and concern always turns to disgust when these fake victims are found out. It takes time and money away from real abductions and crimes and I just don’t understand how a sane person can make the decision to do something so wrong.

Overall, I liked this book but did not love it. Maybe it’s because I read “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn right before I read this book. Flynn’s book was really intense and I couldn’t put it down. “Now You See Her” in comparison was just kind of ‘meh.’ It was interesting to peer inside the mind of a budding ingenue with a strict stage mom and I have always been fascinated by the idea of boarding school.

Those aspects of the book made it worthwhile to read. I also feel like the mental illness was not addressed in a realistic way. Hope was not conclusively diagnosed and her only treatment to was to see a therapist in a mental institution. The ending wrapped up too neatly and mental illness is anything but cut and dry. The book was mostly sad and confusing, but some people like to feel that way, sort of like people who need a good cry to sort themselves out once in awhile. So if you want to feel sad, confused and annoyed, read this book.

What I’m reading next: “The Diviners” by Libba Bray.