Published by HarperCollins on 2014-05-13
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: ARC from NCTE Conference
Tabitha lives a pretty crunchy life in Vermont: small private school, small town, stoner dad, and her parents run a coffee shop called the Tea Cozy. But Tabitha feels she has outgrown her life. She's...ahem...grown up a bit and has started attracting attention for her curves. Some of that attention comes from Joe, the boy with a girlfriend who doesn't seem to mind hooking up with Tabitha on the side. Tabitha has lost her best friends and has gained a reputation at school, but she doesn't mind as long as she can read her worn copy of The Secret Garden and escape to another world. But a margin note in the novel leads Tabitha to a website called "Life By Committee," where an anonymous group of teens exchange secrets for dares. Tabitha decides to participate in this game, completing dares based on her secrets that force her to do exhilarating, life changing tasks. Not all of the dares are easy, though, and Tabitha starts to question what's really best for her -- is living life on the edge all it's cracked up to be?
Okay. So. For the first…wellllll…3/4 of this book, I was not on board with the basic premise of the novel. Honestly, Tabitha kind of annoyed me. She’s self-centered and obsessed with boys, and I didn’t buy the whole “everyone hates me because I got hot and like boys” thing. I also thought it strange that it would be so easy to find so many copies of specific books (A Little Princess and The Secret Garden) with magical margin notes penned by mysterious strangers. I also found it a tad unbelievable that teenagers would blindly join a website like Life By Committee and actually follow through with any of it. The site seems like the kind of place where kids would join and play around without doing much. The kids on the site took it all way too seriously.
Somehow, though, this all redeemed itself some by the end of the novel. That’s not to say I liked the end, exactly. The end was about as cheesy as a cheesetastic cheesefest can be. Like, extra cheese. Cheese with a side of cheese. But overall I think Tabitha became more realistic as the story progressed. She also made more sense. And, strangely, the book concludes with both a cheese-covered bow AND a lot of loose ends. Which, now that I’m writing this, was both weird and real…ish.
Life By Committee has been one of the harder books for me to review because I loved some of the elements (the Vermont setting, the coffee shop, the avoidance of cliche characters, the inclusion of multiple female characters with varying degrees of likeability, and all of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novels), but it just didn’t hit a home run for me. The story was a smidge predictable and Tabitha was a smidge annoying. Plus I wanted to install a flashing light on Joe’s head that reads, “I’m a lying jerk” by the end of the first chapter.
Final Grade: B-
It wasn’t all bad, and Life By Committee will appeal to its intended audience. I liked the basic message of the book, which I did think was fresh and worthwhile for teens. I appreciate what Corey Ann Haydu is doing here and I do think it deserves a place in either a middle or high school library (ages 12+). Who knows, it might inspire someone to take some risks and share their truth with the world!
Do you share more about yourself online than you do in real life?