It’s saturday night in Santa Barbara and school is done for the year. Everyone is headed to the same party. Or at least it seems that way. The place is packed. The beer is flowing. Simple, right? But for 11 different people the motives are way more complicated. As each character takes a turn and tells his or her story, the eleven individuals intersect, and reconnect, collide, and combine in ways that none of them ever saw coming.
This book was pretty good. It made me feel warm and fuzzy after reading, as though the main characters all got to a better place than they were at before that night. Now, the mere idea of the crazy, school-wide party was a bit farfetched, but it was executed realistically. The huge ensemble cast could’ve ended up as one hot mess (see: every ensemble movie ever, from New Year’s Eve to Valentine’s Day), but most voices were distinct… or at least helped introduce characters or move the plot along. Yes, it was gimmicky — and I liked it anyway.
There were really three main plot lines (Beckett-Ashley, Morrigan-Josh, Anthony-Azize), and every other character contributed to those storylines. I have to say I was partial to the Morrigan-Josh storyline, often wishing we could stay there longer. Anthony-Azize was so heartbreaking from both ends, and it really gave insight to racism and hate. And Beckett-Ashley… I’m not going to lie, it was frustrating. I was as mad at Beckett as Ashley was. And really, Beckett couldn’t be any luckier to have such a good, reliable friend.
Beckett: So many of her problems were self-imposed. She hated being lonely, but isolated herself from her support system. She was willing to be such a martyr, except she pitied herself way too much. Her storyline really made you think, especially pertaining to Max. Here she was, thinking she didn’t matter to anyone. When really, she was practically someone else’s world — and she didn’t even know who he was.
Morrigan: If I hadn’t heard her perspective so early on, I probably would’ve hated her. How dare she hurt Josh like that? How dare she act that way to Beckett?! But seeing her life made me root for her. She made huge mistakes and paid the price for them. Well, except with Josh. Really, she acted way out of line with him. She definitely deserved to grovel more.
Tommy & Daniel: Their chapters weren’t together, but they were practically the same person. Two amigos that faded into the background (but at least got chapters, unlike poor Matt). My gripe with these boys was how casually they acted towards certain unsavoury behaviour. They referred to women with derogatory terms, smoked, drank, and pretty much subsisted solely to have a great time. I kinda hoped something would happen between Daniel and Ashley, but nothing bloomed (boo).
Brent: I was not a fan of Brent at all. He also faded into the background. In the story, I’d say his existence was more inconsequential than Beckett’s by a long shot, yet he thought he was important. He’d sit there and talk to people, try to be relevant, and they’d all brush him off as a “random surfer dude.” I almost felt sorry for him. Except he fuelled racist hate through ignorance even more than Anthony, and with less justification, without receiving any repercussions. He didn’t turn over a new leaf or make any sudden realizations by the end of it. It made me pretty sad.
Azize: Oh baby, I had such a soft spot for you. Being an immigrant is hard, and being a minority among the ignorant is even harder. Azize’s voice was so optimistic and so genuine. He dreamt of a happier, better life. He was kind to people who treated him poorly. I can only hope he recovers and one day manages to build the palace of his dreams.
Ryan: This guy was a jerk, but I loved him anyway. His charisma must’ve put me under a spell too, I guess. His antics and debauchery caught up with him by his chapter, but I think he’s really a stand-up guy at heart. He’s young. I hope he’s learned his lesson, gets it all out of his system, and winds up okay.
Anthony: I knew something was up with Anthony during Brent’s chapter, but I didn’t expect to be torn up about it after everything that happened with Azize. Poor guy’s had a hard time. It didn’t excuse his behaviour, and he realized that. He messed up, and he went to do something about it. I’m glad he had people there to support him and help him get to that better place.
Josh: RUN AWAY FROM MORRIGAN AND DATE ME. Josh was such a sweetheart. His chapter kind of sucked (I just didn’t like the format of it, but I know it had to be “different”), but his character was on point throughout the rest of the book. He had strong morals and convictions, but he still knew how to LIVE. He still knew how to have a good time, he didn’t impose his beliefs on others, and he still made close ties with people. Often times, people like Josh are viewed as prudes or lepers in society. But Josh showed how controversial personal decisions don’t have to matter. Peer pressure is only a monster if you let it get to you.
Max: I felt sorry for this dude. His feelings for Beckett went so unnoticed for so long. It was pretty convenient that he got swept up in all the drama by being at the right place at the right time. But hey, good for him for actually summoning the guts to do what he wanted. Really, he was just another fringe character too. His whole storyline was to lift up Beckett and show her progress; her ability to reconnect with others. He was also there to kinda validate her. But hey, I have a feeling he’ll support her until the ends of time.
Ashley: This girl was way too kind for her own good. And holy, she was involved in SO MUCH DRAMA. She was involved in all the storylines and sub-storylines in one way or another, so it made sense that her chapter rounded out the book. She was the glue that kept people together and fixed things when they all went south. She spent so much time dealing with other people’s problems that there was little development surrounding herself. But she still seemed to be in a better place by the end of the book — hopeful for what the summer (and future) would bring for her. And hey, treat others the way you want to be treated, right?
- The Best Night of your (Pathetic) Life – Tara Altebrando
- One Night That Changes Everything – Lauren Barnholdt
- wtf – Peter Lerangis seems similar, but I haven’t read it myself