The advanced copy of this book was kindly sent to me by Bloomsbury Publishing and was released on the 15th of May 2018.
I was so fascinated by this book when I received it. I was so excited to read this that I even posted a First Impressions One-Book Haul a couple weeks ago, and in this review, I’ll compare my thoughts from that post to my final thoughts after reading this book.
Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.
Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favourite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.
Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .
My first thought was; “I’ve never heard of this author before.” And not to mean it in a bad way but I tend to enjoy picking up books by authors whom I am unfamiliar with; so when I received this book from Bloomsbury, I was excited (especially since she has such a cool name).
The thing that mainly drew me in – besides the author’s name – was the blood red cover and how it gave off a mysterious vibe.
WOW! I don’t know where to start with this because my thoughts are all over the place, so I’m going to start with my first reading impression which was all of 6 pages; because I tend to only read 4-6 pages of the book before I write down my first impressions check-in on Goodreads, but this book caught me off guard.
I wasn’t expecting to be greeted with that kind of format, I quite like it, especially the freedom of the character – not the author – to tell their story.
It feels genuine and I can’t wait to get home and pick it up again.”
In summary, this novel follows the story of three best friends – Miri, Penny, and Soleil – plus Jonah, who meet their favourite author – Fatima Ro – whom they obsess over and as it turns out, they befriend her thinking she is the wisest woman in the world. Though it becomes more clear that she doesn’t want them as friends, rather as characters in her new story as she has already exhausted her own experiences in her first break-out novel. When the girls realise that they’d been used it was too late. Dangerous repercussions come from Fatima’s novel which leaves the girls, the media, and everyone involved and otherwise with conflicting opinions.
The story from three main different perspectives – Miri, Penny, and Soleil – in various formats, with the added input of some minor characters. I was expecting a stock standard novel but was greeted with an interview; then a journal entry, then a novel, written by Fatima Ro. YES, you heard right! A novel inside a novel! This concept only worked because the (bear with me) novel that was written by Fatima Ro was parallel with the story that was being told.
The personalities and intentions of the three main characters can be summed up in a sentence: Miri wanted to be Fatima. Penny wanted to be noticed. Soleil admires Fatima and every girl looks up to Fatima for advice. This impacted her decisions and made them perfect pawns in the game that was Fatima’s novel.
It’s interesting because the whole book is centred around Fatima Ro, yet no one knows her current location, no one has heard from her, yet we know everything about her. Regardless of what she did, Fatima Ro set her heart out on the table and showed the girls everything in order to gain their trust and in turn their story to sell as her own.
There was a point in the book – the first main plot twist – where Jonah’s past is divulged in part to Soleil and this is supposed to make us see him as a victim, although I as a reader didn’t see this at all and this is where I began to feel a disconnect from the characters and their opinions. I’m unsure if I as a reader was intended to know the secret about Jonah so early on in his book because I felt that all the other characters were ignorant of such a seemingly obvious fact.
THE ENDING WAS A SHOCKER! No one, not even the best guesser at plot twists would see this coming; and it wasn’t even about the twist it was how the reader’s opinion on Fatima Ro just shifts!
HI! Past Bree here; just throwing my twenty cents in with my immediate post-book thoughts: “I’m a wreck. I don’t want to do anything but remember the whole book. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, maybe a reason to hate Fatima? An alternative for Jonah? I’m broken inside, I can feel it. This book had an earth-shattering impact on me and the incorporation if Fatima’s book made it as if I was her best friend and she was telling me about the theory of human connections. I’ve learnt so much from this book and I might sound like Miri which sucks but I understand why they loved her regardless.
“Even though she seemed like she always wanted everyone to admire her and she wanted to be the class act, Fatima did put on that front of caring for others, and when she did, it was so convincing I couldn’t help but believe it myself.
“I think what made it easy to side against Fatima was the fact that we never hear from Fatima and/ or Jonah (for obvious reasons) but I feel if we had there would be hate for him if we knew his true, raw story instead of just always hearing arguments against Fatima Ro.”
HI! Present Bree again, apologies for that informative interruption – a nice change from the rude and annoying. After this little thought dump I’d written, I tweeted Lygia (the author of AOTIT) because I was so conflicted and confused, I didn’t know what I was meant to think! I’ve attached screenshots of the tweets below:
Lygia replied with a gif which made my day (because I love gifs!).
I was really looking for some consolation as to what she intended for the reader to gain from her book. I find that when a book leaves me with mixed feelings I begin to wonder about what the author intended and how that should impact my review. For instance, if they didn’t receive the intended reaction, was the book really effective in serving its purpose? and how should this impact a review of the book?
Here are some lessons I learnt from reading this book:
Lygia Day Peñaflor is an amazingly tallented human bean and in this novel I learnt a valube lesson about human connections and how toxic it can be when you are too open with and to others; especially those people who’d rather stay closed up.
I’ve also learnt that obsession can blind you, and to not be dependent on others because everyone has their own agenda, even if they do seem to show love and care for you.
here were A LOT of thoughts when I finished this book and I did the best I could in collating them into something cohesive, coherent and readable for your enjoyment.
★ Rating ★
I rated this book ★★★☆ (4/5 stars). The ending nearly pushed this book to a full 5 stars, but there was a niggling feeling throughout the entire book that there was something missing; something that would further connect me to the characters. This feeling left this book just short of 5 stars, but I’d read it all again to experience that ending one more time.
What author are you obsessed with and worship? Much like Miri worshipped and wanted to become Fatima Ro, I want to know who you’re role models are and who you’d want to mimic. I’m scared to befriend an author after this because even I know the temptation of adding friends and their experiences into my works; it’s not genuinely yours.
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?? I’d love to hear them down in the comments below or on my socials.
Also, this was the first post with the new layout and graphics! So please do give me feedback on the post graphics, my overall blog look, and anything else! xxx
Thank You, With Love Bree xx
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