She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott
Simon & Schuster Young Readers
Ally Ryan's mother has no idea what she's about to put her daughter through. Orchard Hill, the home Ally grew up in until her father's hedge fund disaster, is in her past. Or, it should be. Most of the families on the Crest invested in the fund and the Ryans left in disgrace; some of Ally's lifelong friends experienced major losses and she's understandably embarrassed.
But, those who are left behind have no idea just how bad the disaster was for Ally and her family. Not only did they lose all of their own money and possessions, but Ally's father abandoned the family. Where did he go? Is he even alive? Ally has no idea where to even begin to look.
Now, back in Orchard Hill, she and her mother have moved into a condominium on the "normal" side of town. Although some of them have truly suffered, Ally's friends are still living on the Crest. Some of them still have second homes. They still eat Sunday dinners together, hang out at the country club and scoff at the "Norms". Ally's mother is a teacher at Ally's high school and she hopes she and Ally will be able to resume their friendships if not exactly the same old life. She has no idea . . .
When Ally meets Jake Graydon -- the boy who lives in her old room in the house they used to own -- and plays a quick game of basketball with him on the court her father built for her, there's definitely something magnetic going on. Jake likes her relaxed athleticism and manner. But, he's become a part of the clique to which Ally used to belong. Will he risk losing his place amongst the Cresties to date Ally? Or will her angry friends drive Ally and her mother out of town?
Oh, boy, where to begin? This book really grabbed me. As young adult books go, I thought the storyline was excellent -- a great conflict, interesting setting, good set-up for potential disaster or romantic resolution and solid writing. The pages flew. The characters are believable. Ally is a very likable character. She's athletic but not a braggart. She knows exactly how big the mess is that she's getting into, but she absolutely, utterly refuses to let people stop her from being who she is, doing what she wants to do in school and, as much as possible, she resists taking on the humiliation that justifiably belongs to her father. Most of her old friends simply assume that her father ran off with the money, at least for a time.
What I didn't like about the book has become a common complaint for me. There's an awful lot of horrendous language. I know the so-called "f-word" is not considered as taboo amongst the younger generation as it is amongst mine, but still . . . it grates. I've read plenty of excellent young adult books in which the swearing is kept to a decent minimum, if not totally absent. So, I didn't personally care for the language.
Otherwise, there was only one thing I disliked about the book -- and it's a biggie. There is no resolution, whatsoever. None. In the end, you do find out what happened to Ally's father. But, that's it. You know what happened, but nothing has been resolved. Ally's relationships are iffy, although I'm sure most people will have developed a preference amongst her love interests. The book simply ends . . . just ends.
I received the book from Simon & Schuster and happened to have a card that was tucked inside the book, so I wrote to the director of marketing of the Children's Publishing Division and asked her if the abrupt ending meant the book was the beginning of a series. She politely responded that She's So Dead to Us is the first in a trilogy. [relieved sigh]
In general, I simply do not understand this kind of no-resolution ending, but at least it's nice to know that the story will be continued, which hints that there will be a resolution to the various threads of Ally's tale, somewhere down the line. However, if I was buying the book I would honestly just wait until the entire trilogy had been released before buying or checking out. If I'd known in advance that the book simply cannot stand alone because it doesn't end, I wouldn't have even read it. On the other hand, it's a grabber with great characters and a terrific storyline. I certainly don't regret reading the book and I'd like to read the rest.
Wow, dilemmas, eh? My son's long-time friend, Alexandra, has borrowed quite a few books from me and we've talked about endings. I think we're pretty much in agreement. Each book should have some sort of resolution, but it's okay for some things to be left unresolved if there will be more books in the series. To have nothing resolved at all is unnecessarily annoying.
But, darned if we don't both end up rushing out for the next book in a series, if it's good enough. And, She's So Dead to Us is, I must say, awfully good. I was particularly fond of Ally's nutty friends, the Idiot Twins, and their crazy antics. And, as the book progresses, things happen in a realistic manner. Some of her friends soften up a bit and the Idiot Twins totally lack the angry judgmental feelings that her other friends express, early on. There's an awful lot to like about the book. I just wish authors would realize that it's not necessary to leave absolutely everything unresolved in order to tempt people into buying another book. In fact, at times a cliffhanger ending makes me so angry that I refuse to read on. I don't want to get sucked into that ploy.
A compelling enough book will still manage to lure me to the library, at the very least. In this case, I will read on.
4/5 - An excellent piece of young adult writing that suffers from the unfortunate Cliffhanger Syndrome. But, the story, writing, characters, setting and situation are all so beautifully set up that it's hard to criticize too fiercely and I hope to read the next two books in the series. This was a "can't put down" type of book.
Addendum: I neglected to look at the release date on the spine of this book and jumped the gun a tiny bit. The official release date is 5/25/10.