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Book Talk: People Like Us by Dana Mele

Hiya guys! I feel like it has been forever since I decided to discuss a book on here and that’s mostly because I was simply not doing a lot of reading in 2020. I thought it was going to be the opposite since we were pretty much all stuck at home. Well I ended up building up quite the book collection and remained untouched for the majority of the year. Like if I ended up reading a handful I would say that is too many. So one of my big goals for the year was to do the 52 Book Challenge where you basically just read 52 books in a year. Sounds ambitious? Major resounding yeah. I didn’t realize just how much when I decided to take this challenge on. And I won’t lie I am not keeping up with it as much as I should, but I am definitely not going to beat myself up about it. Slow but steady wins the race… or something like that. Anyway one of the first books I managed to finish for my challenge is People Like Us by Dana Mele. This is a book that caught my attention from the synopsis for the whole YA murder mystery a la Pretty Little Liars vibe. What I got well… it was a lot less thrilling.

Take this as your final fair warning as the post ahead will contain major spoilers on the entire plot including the ending. If you’d like to read the book at some point definitely do not spoil it for yourself. 

Title: People Like Us

Author: Dana Mele

Rating: 3/5

Release Date: Feb 27, 2018

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

Honestly guys… I really disliked this book. I don’t mean to start off on a negative foot, but getting thru this book was by far nothing short of a struggle. But I’m one of those people that no matter how terrible something is – a book, movie, show – if I start it then I’m seeing it thru to the end. So let me take a set back. The premise and the idea of a murder mystery scavenger hunt was very interesting. Chef’s kiss. The execution falls short, but even worse are the characters that we get to know along the way. 

Starting with our main girl Kay aka by far the most toxic and unlikable protagonist I have read thus far. It’s clear from the beginning that Kay has a very selfish, every man for themselves, kind of attitude. When the body of Jessica is discovered there is a conversation with Brie (her best friend and love interest) that resolves around Kay not getting the big deal or need for cancelling school events. Brie tries to remind her that well a fellow classmate has died to which Kay says “well yeah, but no one important”. Oof. And I wish that by the end of the book there was some major character development or any kind of change or growth in Kay. I just didn’t see it. Throughout the book we are obviously trying to navigate and figure out who this murderer on campuses, but Kay also has a deep dark secret that she keeps hidden from everyone including her best friend. When Kay was in middle school her best friend and her older brother Todd started dating fast forward to a bad breakup and there were indecent photos spread around the school of her. Her best friend then confides in her that it was her brother who spread the pictures, but Kay gives him an alibi and doesn’t believe her friend. Unfortunately this results in the friend then taking her own life and then the friends brother murdering Todd. Definitely heavy stuff and as the reader you want to sympathize with her… But then you get to the big reveal at the end. This is where you find out that Kay agreed to help her friends brother in cornering Todd to “beat him up” as an act of revenge. That’s what she was told would happen, but ultimately the man decided to run him over with his truck instead. Like how am I supposed to like this character? I completely understand that in life some people make mistakes that are heavier than others and it doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. But throughout the course of this book we do not see any growth from this selfish self serving Kay.

The toxic characters are a plenty in this book. Every single friend – and I do use that term loosely – that Kay has at Bates Academy with the exception of Brie seems more like an enemy in hiding. Maybe that’s the point? The online blog left behind by ‘Jessica’ for Kay to solve has her pinned to tell secrets that involve her friends or else her big secret gets told to everyone including the police. The secrets range from her athletic friend taking steroids to one of her other friends sleeping with a teacher. And while I get these are really intense secrets to have to tell your friends that you need to spill, the way Kay goes about it is so aggressive. Almost like ‘Oh I have to ruin her life? Better her then me’. So it’s no surprise that her friends turn on her, but then again that’s the thing. These are supposed to be her closest friends, but in the blink of an eye they are absolutely against her. Like it doesn’t take much at all. Brie takes the longest to finally turn on her as well (at least to an extent), but her relationship with Kay is a whole other level of toxicity that I can’t even begin to unpack. Throughout my annotations I kept questioning like are these people really friends?

I mentioned before how the execution of the whole website fell short. Well I enjoyed the premise, the website itself was designed in a way that would lead Kay to one person and one person only. But then doesn’t that make things obvious? Nola reeked from the get-go. This was a girl who was bullied by Kay and her friends in the past on multiple occasions, but she’s willingly helping?! Each of the posts on the website were riddles in the form of cooking recipes and poetry. I wish I could say it added to the overall story… It does not. I also felt that figuring out the coded recipe, telling the secret, etc were done so hastily that you forgot it was supposed to be interesting. One of the girls is sleeping with her teacher and we barely got any info on it. We spent more time on Nola and the cat she killed then anything in the earlier chapters.

Book Talk: People Like Us by Dana Mele

There were a lot of other throw away characters and moments that aren’t worth mentioning. It felt like certain situations and characters were used as red herrings. This especially rings true with the only male characters we see glimpses of: Greg and Spencer. But nothing was more of a red herring then when it came time for the characters sexual orientations to be revealed. Listen I’m all for represention in books, but not when it’s written as nothing more than a plot device. That irked me to no end and left much to be desired.

That was a lot of negative points, but there were some moments of redeeming quality. Finding out the what and who behind Jessica’s death. It being simply a case of ‘bad place at a bad time’ was heart breaking. But it felt raw and real, I liked the reveal much more than I thought I would. Speaking of reveal, yes Nola is our killer. Shocking? Not at all. I would have been more surprised if she ended up being innocent after all this. What did surprise me was the Nola is Bianca (her supposed sister) all along. Now this wouldn’t have been so surprising hadn’t not been for the fact that we are introduced to her parents who so nonchalantly go along with it all. Like what?

All in all I gave this book a 3/5 and would only recommend if you don’t mind a rather tedious read. This is the first and only book I have read by this author, so I’m definitely curious to see her writing style in another novel. But that’s a wrap on this book and I’m on to the next! If you have any suggestions please feel free to leave them now before. If you’ve read this book yourself I would love to know your thoughts on it. Until next time xoxo Moonbaes.


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