Yellow cover with pieces of pink bubble gum

About the Book

Title: How to Break a Boy
Published: 2017
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Bubble YUM!
BFF Charm: Eventually
Talky Talk: Mean Girls
Bonus Factors: Fake Dating, Complex Characters
Relationship Status: Partners in Crime

Cover Story: Bubble YUM!

True story: I took myself out on a book date while reading this. I was having lunch at a fancy restaurant, reading this book, when someone stopped at my table and said, “Rosemary?” It was an old friend, a notorious book snob, who was a waiter at said restaurant. After we chatted for a bit, he asked about my book, and when he got a glance at the cover, I could see the obvious shock and disgust on his face. I won’t lie: this is the most screamingly YA book cover of all time. BUT I LOVE IT. The unwrapped bubble gum is such a genius way to embody the idea of mean girls. It’s very Sweet Valley High/Heathers/Clueless. And the typeset is one of my very favorites. So some – like my snobby friend – might classify this one as a brown bagger, but I’m gonna let my bright yellow YA freak flag fly this time.

The Deal:

Olivia – O at school, Liv to her family and friends – and her best friend Adrienne have ruled their small Southern town for years. They are the epitome of mean girls, and they rule by force rather than popular vote. They’ve manipulated, intimidated, and clawed their way to the top, and no one is brave enough to stand up to them. But when Olivia catches Adrienne sleeping with her boyfriend shortly after Olivia suffers a family tragedy, she decides she’ll use everything she’s learned to take Adrienne down one final time. Olivia convinces the school’s golden boy Whit to be her fake boyfriend, but quickly realizes that everything and everyone she touches will end up collateral damage in her war against her former BFF.

BFF Charm: Eventually

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

For most of this book, Olivia stressed me out way too much. She was absolutely ruthless. A little sociopath, a lot psychopath. I was constantly screaming, “Oh god, don’t do it, girl, don’t you do it!!!” But when she inevitably did do whatever terrible thing she would do, I couldn’t help but revel in her evilness a little bit. What bothered me even more than her bullying, however, was her complete devotion to Adrienne. I wanted to shake her and yell, “JUST WALK AWAY. She betrayed you! She’s using you! She’s going to RUIN YOU.” But Olivia always seemed to find her way back to Adrienne, and as infuriating as it was…I remember it. I remember the hold that some girls could have over you when you’re 17.

Olivia had some major life lessons to learn over the course of this book, and she has to hit rock bottom to realize it, but I think that if you strip away the mean girl exterior, you’re left with someone who is fiercely loyal, a fighter, and at times, a girl who just needs to be reminded that she’s worthwhile.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Obviously, Olivia can’t get revenge on Adrienne for sleeping with her boyfriend if she seems all sad about it. That’s like, Mean Girl 101. She convinces Whit DuRant, he of the straight A’s and golf scholarships, to be both her real SAT tutor and fake boyfriend. Whit is conventionally cute, but far too uptight and boring to be Olivia’s usual type, so their sudden coupling takes the school by surprise. I’ll talk more about Fake Boyfriends in a minute. For now, let me just tell you this: Olivia and Whit put on a good show for people at school but, damn, do they put on an even better show when it’s just the two of them. Whit challenges Olivia because he sees that she’s smart and good, even when Olivia can’t see it herself. The line between real and fake starts to blur, and suddenly, things between them get super hot and super confusing. 

Talky Talk: Actual Mean Girls

Despite its bubble gum cover, this book is not a funny ha-ha look at popularity. It’s dark. Really dark. And while lots of stories about mean girls come from the POV of an outsider-who-isn’t-REALLY-a-mean-girl (think: Cady Heron, Veronica Sawyer), the protagonist of How to Break a Boy is absolutely one of the OG mean girls. Olivia and Adrienne are malicious and their friendship is toxic. You don’t want to root for either of them, and yet I felt like a sentient Michael Jackson popcorn meme while reading it. It’s a trainwreck I couldn’t turn away from, and an unflinching look at the lengths girls will go to to rip each other to shreds.

However, by starting so dark, Laurie Devore gave herself a lot of space for character growth, and watching Olivia learn lessons, improve, fail, improve, then fail again, was what made this book such a page turner. I wanted her to succeed eventually. I was rooting for her, and knowing that she could change kept it from feeling too grim. That said, I’m a *little* afraid of Laurie Devore after reading it.

Bonus Factor: Fake Dating

Nicole and Chase from Drive Me Crazy

Y’all I love a good fake boyfriend trope. Any time two people pretend to be dating, for whatever reason, I’m here for it. 

Bonus Factor: Complex Characters

Severus Snape from Harry Potter

As much as I’ve gone on about what awful mean girls Olivia and Adrienne were, I have to give credit where credit is due. Adrienne could have been a Regina George clone – she could’ve been a caricature of what we’ve been taught about mean girls. But she was more than that. There were moments when I could actually FEEL her pull and understand how she had this hypnotic hold on the girls around her. Devore managed to write a group of girls with complicated friendships and multi-dimensional personalities, which elevated this book to another level.

Relationship Status: Partners in Crime

Book, you are bad news and definitely a bad influence, but I can’t seem to stay away. You’re like a hot guy on a motorcycle – irresistible. I’ll drive your getaway car, if you’ll hold my hair while I puke. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a review copy from Macmillon, but I did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the gross cranberry ones) for writing this review. How to Break a Boy is available January 31, 2017.

Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and cocker spaniel. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. She is a brand designer who loves tiki drinks, her mid-century modern house, and obsessive Google mapping.