Title: If I’m Being Honest
Author: Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka
Publication Day: April 23rd, 2019
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback ARC
High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.
In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…
But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.
Booktimistic Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
It has been a while since I enjoyed a YA contemporary book as much as If I’m Being Honest. A modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, this compelling story about a popular mean girl and computer game nerd boy had me laughing out loud and turning pages from start to finish. The story is smart, entertaining and funny but also realistic. Undoubtedly, teenage me would have swooned over this, but seeing that adult me enjoyed it too without any eye rolls, (which believe me happens a lot with YA fiction theses days), I am going to be encouraging readers, particularly those who enjoy YA contemporary, to add this one to their summer TBR.
The story opens with Cameron Bright, your classic private school mean girl and bitch incarnate. Gorgeous, smart and aware of it, Cameron is also known for her harsh and biting honesty that is almost always borderline cruel. But she doesn’t care, because to her truth is the truth, however brutal it might get. Until one day at a party, when Cameron is being pointedly mean to a teary eyed girl from school, her crush Andrew overhears her caustic cutting comments and calls Cameron “bitch” to her face. Andrew gets very upset after witnessing Cameron’s behavior, but Cameron is determined to change that and make him realize that she is a kind and caring person. But how? She needs a plan!
Taking inspiration from English class, Cameron decides to tame herself just like Katherine from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and the first step to this transformation would to be to right all wrongs, starting with apologizing to everyone she’s ever been mean to. On top of her list of people she needs to make amends with, is Paige Rosenfeld, the girl she snapped at, in front of Andrew. Following which is Brendan, whom she publicly shamed and coined a mean nickname for in middle school that stuck through the years. And then there are a few others as well. But Paige and Brendan are not making it easy for Cameron and neither are ready to accept her apology, butCameron is not a quitter, and has her eyes on the prize aka Andrew, so she is persistent and keeps on with her efforts.
Cameron’s journey of transformation from a mean girl to a caring, considerate human comprises the major chunk of this story, but alongside it also has a lot more to offer, like the stress of trying to manage a strained relationship with parents, balancing personal and parental expectations at a tender age, peer pressure, the joys of a strong sibling relationship and of finding friendships in the unlikeliest of places. It makes us realize that forgiveness starts with oneself and being a kind and good person does not necessarily equate to not being our true selves but rather unraveling that same person but as a better and superior version.
Another positive that requires a mention is the well defined and fleshed out characters that behaved and reacted according to their age. Realistic fiction should feel relatable to readers. Often we see YA characters in books acting and speaking in a far too mature manner that makes everything seem superficial. The authors have made sure the characters in here are flawed, imperfect and relatable.
In conclusion, If I’m Being Honest is a fun and engaging contemporary with a strong feminist main character, plenty of witty banter and also a few important social messages. If you are a fan of this genre, do not miss this delightful story.
Disclaimer: An ARC was provided by Penguin Young Readers Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.