Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 1, 2013
Publisher: Albert Whitman
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: homophobia, bullying, new school, friendships, remarriage
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley (Thanks!)
Summary: Starting at a new school for Reyna Fay is tough, especially when all her best friends are all together at another one. When she reluctantly falls into a friendship with loner Olive, the constant butt of her class’ jokes, Reyna is tested in ways she never imagined.
On one hand, I really related to Reyna’s uneasiness when starting her new school without her best friends. I felt so similarly in middle school when I was separated from my elementary school best friends for the first time. Will your friendship survive not seeing each other every day all day? Will they like their new friends better? And would eventually mixing new friends and old friends lead to disaster?
Kocek explores the plights of the 14-year-old so well, she could have taken pages out of my journal: the up and down moods, wanting to stay below the radar at school but not be totally invisible, and the excitement that comes along with a first romance. But it’s Reyna’s time with Olive, a girl that practically forces their friendship, that really makes her first year in high school one to remember.
In good ways and in bad.
Olive is totally outspoken, not afraid to say how she feels no matter how any else feels. She’s not exactly the person Reyna would pick to be friends with, but soon they are working on school projects together and having sleepovers. I was never totally sold on Olive. Maybe because I was never be able to predict what she was going to say or do? My inclinations weren’t too far off. She continued to shock me throughout the whole book.
There is SO much I want to say to you, because Promise Me Something really turns the tables on bullying and the non-acceptance of people’s sexuality. It’s also about being scared of the unknown and not always knowing what to do when faced with those situations. I was disappointed when Reyna allowed herself to be poisoned by the popular crowd, and even more so, that Olive couldn’t seem to get over herself and things got worse and worse when the two hit an impasse.
Kocek has a lot of lessons for her readers in the pages of this book, and while I appreciated them, I felt like I was swimming in uncharted territory for the last half. (And just how believable was all of it? That was a big question for me.) Tons of surprises and a lot of character growth for Reyna all brought to a halt with an abrupt ending. After all that occurred and all the attention to detail, there needed to be more of a wrap up and maybe some anger?
So some elements resonated, and some just didn’t. Still Promise Me Something was fast-paced, featured a lot of relatable experiences (remarriage and religion), and also presented an entirely unique way of dissecting unfortunate issues that plague us too often and need to take a hike. For good.