Reader vs Reader: Winning

Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???).  Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically.  They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree.  RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance.  And maybe both.  

Andrea and Pam both read

Reader vs Reader: Winning

Whoever said being nice would get you to the top?

Certainly not Alexandra Miles. She isn’t nice, but she’s more than skilled at playing the part. She floats through the halls of Spencer High, effortlessly orchestrating the actions of everyone around her, making people bend to her whim without even noticing they’re doing it. She is the queen of Spencer High—and it’s time to make it official.

Alexandra has a goal, you see—Homecoming Queen. Her ambitions are far grander than her small town will allow, but homecoming is just the first step to achieving total domination. So when peppy, popular Erin Hewett moves to town and seems to have a real shot at the crown, Alexandra has to take action.

With the help of her trusted friend Sam, she devises her most devious plot yet. She’ll introduce an unexpected third competitor in the mix, one whose meteoric rise—and devastating fall—will destroy Erin’s chances once and for all. Alexandra can run a scheme like this in her sleep. What could possibly go wrong?

The Quick Reactions:

 
thumbs up
thumbsdown
Pam: I would give it a thumbs up with LOTS of reservations. I didn’t HATE it but I had a lot of issues Andrea:  I’m going to go with a light thumbs down. I didn’t hate it, but it just didn’t really work for me, especially the ending.

 

Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):

Andrea: I’m really torn on this as well because I know it was aiming to be a Mean Girls type thing, but I feel like it fell short? It wasn’t funny to me and the whole taking down the mean girl by becoming mean girls bothered me a lot

Pam: I found it to be really readable (which is very strange since i normally don’t do contemporary but I think you are making me like it!!!) BUT the ending was super-rushed and the whole outsmart the mean girl scheme came together too easily. And I agree–it shows that the only way to “win” at high school is to play dirty when in fact it literally doesn’t matter when you leave high school.

Andrea: Agree with all you say. I had trouble getting into it, but I could see how someone would totally rush right in and love it. I do think the ending was extremely rushed and that the whole everyone has to play dirty just SIGH. I also just couldn’t like Alexandra. I know characters don’t have to be likable to be good ones, but she felt so flat to me. Even her home life story just felt—cliche? But I do think there’s some interesting think piece on idolizing someone/falling their plan when obviously their life is train wreck. Even before the death of the father, it was obvious she was not more than a trophy wife.

Pam: Yep.  And I wish she had explored her relationship with her dad more.  I felt like that could have been a really good foil to who Alexandra is today.

Andrea: Yes, and I think there could have been more to her relationship with her mom. Why didn’t she ever feel like she loved her mom? Why did she allow her mom to drive her to those points if she didn’t care about pleasing her? Or maybe she did and she didn’t want to admit it.

Pam: The whole mom thing was v. confusing and never really convinced me that this is why Alex is the way she is.  I just figured she was a straight up sociopath

Andrea: Yeah, the author seemed to apply it was attached to her mom, but there wasn’t enough to give it that UMPH

Pam: Okay, the other thing that REALLY bothered me was how Sam thought it was okay for Alex to “reward” her loyalty with kisses and other affection she didn’t mean. Even though it was pretty clear that Alex was straight and just using her own beauty to keep Sam in line.

Andrea: I don’t think she really thought it was okay. I think she was lonely and longing for what Alex was “offering”. It was pure manipulation on Alexandra’s part. And while Sam basically realized it was happening, she was so longing for that attention she took it

Pam: I should clarify: I guess I meant “okay” in the sense that a) Sam accepted the attention even though she knew it was false, and b) in order to get the attention, Sam would do really awful things.  I guess I could forgive doing awful things for love/lust if it was reciprocal, but Sam knows it’s not, and she’s being paid for her services in attention.  That just made me hate Alex even more.

Plus, once Sam and Erin got together, it seemed very easy for Sam to turn on Alex, which makes me think that the attention thing & fear of being turned on were what was keeping her “friends” with Alex in the first place

Andrea: I do think it was a little more than that. Alexandra was, after all, the first person to stand up for her. So, I do think there was some loyalty-sentiment behind it. However, yes, I do think some of the reason she stayed was because she was being manipulated.

Although, I’m still torn on how much I believe Sam knew it was never going to happen. I think she knew deep down but…haven’t you had that crush that flirts back with you just enough to keep you on the line? And even though you know it’s a long shot, you stay around because “what if” and “well maybe” and “If I play my cards right”

Pam: Oh yeah, absolutely.  But I was pretty sure that person was not a sociopath.

Andrea: I’m not sure if Alexandra was a sociopath in her eyes. I think it was just classic mean girl/queen bee/doing what it takes to be on “top”. And I’m not sure how much she knew about the things she’d done in the past. It’s made to sound like Sam is always part of the plan, but look how much she kept her out of the picture for the whole Ivy thing

Pam: Mmm, good point.

Andrea: And I thinks it’s the whole peer pressure if I stand up to her what will happen to me type thing? Not one in Alexandra retaliating, but she didn’t have any other friends. So, I do think a lot of it could have been with fear as well.

BUT, I will say that I kind of like that Sam generally had a pretty good storyline, especially being a lesbian. I mean, they even have sex! And it’s not totally off page!

Pam: I was SO glad Sam’s story wasn’t the Tragic Gay Story

I think what really makes me angry about the ending is that they didn’t even go after Alex.  If they’re going to go mean girl and make it personal, then go for Alex.  They went after her mom, which is so wrong.  I don’t care what her mom is doing or did … call Alex on her own crap.

Andrea: I can agree for with that and they did a little in the way of Matt. I just think they had no evidence to bring her down, so the easiest way was to show that her mom was up to no good. Not that I agree with it, of course, but I don’t think they could have proven anything else. She had already ruined all the girls who had stories of her vileness, so no one would believe them. And Alexandra was super good at playing victim

Pam: Mmmm.  That’s true.  It just … I guess if I had to read something where the m/c gets theirs, I’d rather it be about them personally.  *shrug*

Andrea: Oh no, I completely agree. The ending was not satisfying in any way, shape or form.

Pam: I guess … it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t satisfying.  For me it’s like “meh” thumbs sideways

Andrea: Agree, I can understand why people are liking, but overall, I just wanted something a bit different.

 

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