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Keep Your Friends Close And Their Hot Brothers Closer

Dara must face the fallout from her best friend's death in Rebecca Phillips' These Things I've Done.

Keep Your Friends Close And Their Hot Brothers Closer

BOOK REPORT for These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

Cover Story: Brown Bag It
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Now and Then
Bonus Factor: Rock Band
Relationship Status: Falling 4 U

Cover Story: Brown Bag It

It's a classic tale: cover designer meets book, cover designer slaps the book title over a nondescript stock photo, publisher's like, "yep, that'll work." I suppose that girl could be Dara. She's...blonde. And...sad. Dara didn't experience any significant sad thoughts around a body of water, but it could've happened off-page, I guess. Covers like this one just scream "half-assed" to me, and do nothing to sell the book. 

The Deal:

It's been fifteen months since her best friend Aubrey died a tragic death, and now, Dara is back at her old school after a year away. She's decided to come back home and face her demons, and by demons, I mean her own guilt AND her classmates, who think that Dara murdered Aubrey and plan to remind her of that every chance they get. Even harder to face than her classmates, though, is Aubrey's brother Ethan, the only person who understood the bond Aubrey and Dara had and the reason the cracks in their friendship started to show before the accident. It's all very complicated, but not nearly as complicated as things will be if Dara can't control her changing feelings for Ethan.

BFF Charm: Maybe

While Aubrey was the straight-A student, violin prodigy and perfect daughter, pre-accident Dara was her foil in almost every way. She couldn't turn down a dare, was always up for an adventure, and dreamed of being a police officer one day. She was fun and fierce and unafraid. Post-accident Dara, not so much. Which is fair! She's clearly got a bad case of PTSD brought on by her role in Aubrey's death, and she's being bullied and tortured by her classmates on the regs. So while new Dara is a shadow of her former self, she has reason to be. That said, there were times both during the flashbacks and even in Dara's present day chapters where she seemed jealous of Aubrey in a way that got under my skin a little. She couldn't say something positive about Aubrey without comparing it to herself in a negative way, and that made her seem petty. I wanted to shake her and say, "Aubrey is your BEST FRIEND! You're allowed to talk about how great she is without saying how much you suck in the same breath!"

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Before Aubrey's death, her little brother Ethan was just starting his freshmen year, and he tagged along with Dara and Aubrey most days at school. He was skinny and shy, and Dara considered him a friend, but not much else. Now she's back, starting her senior year, and Ethan is transformed. He's tall and brooding and plays guitar in a ~rock band~ and, duh, totally hot. Dara isn't sure how to reconcile this new Ethan with the one she remembers, but as they start to spend more time together, it is pretty clear that Ethan knows exactly how he feels about Dara. Their shared trauma brings them closer, but Dara's role in Aubrey's death makes everything messy. And this combination creates a hotbed for swoon.

Talky Talk: Now and Then

These Things I've Done alternates between Dara's senior year as she navigates being back at school after Aubrey's death, and her sophomore year in the months leading up to the accident. We know Aubrey died but we don't exactly know how or what role Dara played in her death, which creates a dissonance that makes you want to keep reading. Phillips' writing reminded me of Sarah Dessen in the way she was able to portray a broken girl who was dealing with her trauma while also learning to open up to others and forgive herself. The result is an emotionally resonant contemporary that manages to be easy to read without feeling like fluff.

Bonus Factor: Rock Band

Ethan is rebelling against his super strict parents by playing in a rock band, and it's everything high school rock-n-roll dreams are made of: an empty garage, a cocky frontman, groupies, and a nervewracking first performance in a local showcase. 

Relationship Status: Falling 4 U

Book, I broke the golden rule and judged you by your awful cover, but as I started reading, my feelings for you grew and deepened, and by your final pages, I knew we had something real. Now excuse me whlie I pen a swoony love song just for you.

FTC Full Disclosure: I did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the lame cranberry ones) for writing this review. These Things I've Done is available now.

Rosemary Hallmark's photo About the Author: Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her cute husband and even cuter dog. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. (She's still got a soft spot for the swoony, contemporary stuff.) A former magazine editor, she is now a freelance writer, graphic designer, art director and photo stylist. The rest of her time is spent drinking cocktails, renovating her house and laughing at her husband's ridiculous Pretty Little Liars theories.
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