Published by Sourcebooks Fire on January 6th, 2015
Genres: mystery-thriller, young adult
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Keeping secrets ruined her life. But the truth might just kill her. Piper Woods can't wait for the purgatory of senior year to end. She skirts the fringes of high school like a pro until the morning she finds a notebook with mutilated photographs and a list of student sins. She's sure the book is too gruesome to be true, until pretty, popular Stella dies after a sex-tape goes viral. Everyone's sure it's suicide, but Piper remembers Stella's name from the book and begins to suspect something much worse. Drowning in secrets she doesn't want to keep, Piper's fears are confirmed when she receives an anonymous text message daring her to make things right. All she needs to do is choose a name, the name of someone who deserves to be punished...
Earlier this year, I read Natalie D Richards’ debut, Six Months Later. I thought that mystery was cleverly crafted and engaging, so when I saw she had another thriller coming out (which the same gorgeous cover concept!) I definitely had to have it. Unfortunately, the author’s sophomore effort did not work for me quite as well as I expected. The mystery was there, but the surrounding elements did nothing for me.
Though it’s not quite clear in the blurb, Gone Too Far is actually a story about revenge – specifically, those bullied exacting revenge on their tormentors. If you know anything about my tastes, you know that type of story simply isn’t for me. And if I had known that’s what I was in for, I never would have requested this title. Getting Revenge on the Bully stories don’t work for me for a number of reasons, but the most important reason is that these books spend far too much time humanizing the tormentors and demonizing the victims. We’re always shown how the bully is really hiding some secret struggle. In real life, we are always looking for reasons why the victim is to blame for the crimes committed against them. In these narratives, the victims always discover their bullies aren’t really as bad as they seem and then start to falter and doubt themselves even more. Rarely do the victims ever find redemption. Gone Too Far is not immune to this victim-blaming trope. I think it kind of comes with the territory, but I think it’s harmful in the long run to perpetuate these kinds of stories.
Another thing that really bothered me with this book was the constant insensitive remarks regarding culture and maybe even race. A few gems include comparing cafeteria territory to the Gaza Strip. Repeatedly referring to a black character as having “caramel” skin. Comparing high school popularity struggles to the Civil Rights Movement. These were especially egregious to me considering the current social climate in America and also in Gaza, but there were other ableist remarks about “psychiatric evaluation” and “mentally unstable.” Even though the character does sort of address her “tactlessness” regarding the Crazy comments, I didn’t think it was enough. This book would have been a lot better without all this mess.
Speaking of the main character, I did actually enjoy Piper a lot when she wasn’t calling everyone crazy. Her voice was actually refreshing to me and I found her proactive stance exciting to read. Even when things started spinning out of control, she was always consciously making decisions and acting on them, which I thought was awesome. And though I wouldn’t have necessarily made the same decisions as she, I was able to figure out Piper’s personal logic behind them, which I think is more important than actually agreeing with a character. I also loved Piper’s self confidence in her artwork and in her appearance. She wasn’t questioning why the popular boy liked her because of her appearance or anything like that. She was more suspicious of his timing. A romance not full of insecurities is always a plus in my book.
As for the mystery, for the majority of the book, there were two main suspects, and I admit on going back and forth between the two until right before the reveal. I loved the way the culprit was shown to us, though. That scene was exciting and had my heart racing. Aside from the obvious “who is behind this” question, we had another bully to contend with throughout the novel: Jackson Pierce. (*snort*) This guy was a grade A asshole. The book tried to excuse his behavior a little bit with some dark and murky family life business, but I’m just over guys thinking they can do this shit to girls and everyone just glossing it over because it’s really HIM that’s the victim here. Give me a fucking break. Aside from that though, I thought he actually made a pretty realistic high school villain while still making him scary.
I didn’t hate Gone Too Far but it is definitely not my favorite thriller/mystery out there. The heroine was definitely refreshing and the mystery kept me guessing for a long while. However, I don’t enjoy it when others make excuses for the horrible actions of male characters (and men in real life.) I also don’t like the way this made the actual victims of bullying turn into assholes. This type of narrative isn’t for me. But if you do enjoy a revenge fantasy, then I’d recommend you give this one a shot.